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Deadly Cholera Outbreak Hits Northern Iraq

August 30, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Iraqi health officials say at least eight people have died from an outbreak of cholera in the war-torn country's northern provinces.

They say another 4,000 suspected cholera cases are being treated.

The health minister for the northern Kurdistan region, Zryan Othman, warned on August 29 that the disease could spread to other areas, including Baghdad, if the international community did not offer urgent help.

Othman said the Kurdistan region has declared a state of emergency to prevent the further spread of cholera -- an acute intestinal infection that spreads through contaminated water or food. Cholera causes severe diarrhea, and in extreme cases can cause death through dehydration.

Othman told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq August 27 that doctors immediately suspected an outbreak of cholera when patients began arriving at the beginning of August.

“From the very beginning, we suspected that it was cholera, and this helped us to decrease losses," he said. "And we will continue completing our plan. And the most important factor will be finding out the source of the cholera. We continue to search for that source, along with our brothers from the health team from Baghdad and health authorities in the city of Al-Sulaymaniyah."

Doctors said that most of the patients probably drank well water due to a shortage of treated drinking water, a common problem in Iraq during the summer.

(with material from agency reports)

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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