Zimbabwe cholera outbreak likely to continue: WHO

GENEVA (Reuters) - A cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe has infected more than 6,000 people and killed 294 in the country whose economic collapse has caused many hospitals to close, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.

“The outbreak is likely to continue as the water and sanitation situation is worsening, with severe shortages of potable water, sewage and waste disposal problems reported in most of the populated areas,” it said in a statement.

Cholera is a water-borne disease that causes vomiting and acute diarrhea, and can rapidly lead to death from dehydration. It spreads fastest in situations with poor sanitation or where contaminated water is used for drinking or for preparing food.

In Zimbabwe, which has the world’s highest inflation rate, many hospitals have shut down and most towns suffer from intermittent water supply, broken sewers and uncollected garbage.

The WHO said stamping out the southern African country’s outbreak would be difficult because of a limited availability of drugs, medical supplies, and health professionals there.

“The start of the rainy season is also of concern,” it said.

The United Nations agency and its partners including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are distributing emergency health kits, water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts and other essential supplies and training volunteers in hygiene promotion in Zimbabwe’s worst-hit areas.

(Reporting by Laura MacInnis)


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