- Title: MALAWI: Cholera outbreak kills over 60 people
- Date: 25th February 2009
- Summary: MORE OF CHOLERA PATIENTS
- Embargoed: 12th March 2009 12:00
- Location: Malawi
- Country: Malawi
- Topics: Health
- Reuters ID: LVA6U5IEWNSCEOECQ3IVWIU15D66
- Story Text: Health officials say a cholera outbreak has killed over 60 people and affected thousands of others in Malawi. The southern African region is already struggling with an deadly epidemic in Zimbabwe that has killed 3,579 people.
A cholera outbreak in Malawi has killed at least 60 people and affected over 1,000 others, health officials say.
The intestinal infection spreads through contaminated food and water and can cause severe dehydration and death without proper treatment.
The problem is especially acute in rural areas where medical facilities are scarce.
The government has been discouraging people since last year from preparing food at funerals and buying meals from vendors.
"We ensure that every two weeks we go to the rural areas where we provide both health education messages and also medication. The chlorine that we provide only lasts for two weeks so we have intensified our campaign,"
said Joyce Chikwakwa, a nurse and health education officer.
Health officials in Malawi had long feared that a cholera epidemic in neighbouring Zimbabwe could spread. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 80,000 people have now been infected with cholera in Zimbabwe's six-month-old outbreak which has killed 3,759.
Malawi's cholera problem began in the country's main commercial city, Lilongwe, in November.
A lack of proper sanitation and the onset of the rainy season has seen the disease spread to many parts of the southern-African nation.
"Last year, the situation was ok, there were a few cases and we did not do much on the cholera cases. But now this year because it seems the increase is on the very high side. So we have taken an initiative to help in most of the districts in the southern region," said John Skanda, a logistics officer with international medical agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
MSF says Malawi's last major outbreak was in 2001. Although 1,000 people died at that time, health officials have long forgotten how to cope with such an epidemic.
"What we are doing now is to make sure that more people are aware of the preventive measures and use chlorine in water before they drink it to avoid cholera," said Frank Dziombole, a clinical officer.
With the help of groups like MSF, the government is training nurses, installing latrines in its main cities, and setting up isolation units for patients.
"We are saying we want to eliminate cholera by the year 2015. And in that plan the strategy is on how somebody can prevent himself or herself from getting the disease. So, I would say the ministry as a whole has put in plans whereby we want to combat the disease itself," says Dr. Lilian Chunda, a district officer with the country's minister of health.
According to WHO, a billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion live without adequate sanitation facilities such as toilets.
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