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WHO Praises Iran's Control over Iraqi-Sourced Cholera

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Iran stifled a potential cholera outbreak three weeks ago, after the infection was carried there from Iraq, the World Health Organization revealed.

"There were a few cases in Iran about three weeks ago, it's under control," WHO cholera coordinator Claire-Lise Chaignat said.

"Iran reacted very well, they dealt with the cases rapidly," Chaignat said, underlining that there was no spread from less than ten known cases.

The cholera cases were first recorded in Iran's western province of Kurdistan, next to Iraq, on September 19, she added. The WHO was not aware of any other cases elsewhere in Iran.

Iraq has been grappling with a growing outbreak of cholera, with 3,300 cases and 14 deaths since August, largely in the northeast of the country.

Chaignat said the infection was probably carried into Iran by travelers from Iraq.

"There's a link, that's for sure," she added.

On Wednesday, the WHO called on Iraq's neighbors to reinforce surveillance for cholera, without mentioning the cases found in Iran last month.

Chaignat said Iranian health authorities' swift reaction underlined the value of surveillance instead of travel restrictions to and from affected areas.

The Iraqi outbreak and its spread in the conflict-ridden country has been blamed on poor quality water supplies and a lack of sanitation.

Cholera in Iraq - update 3

World Health Organization (WHO),
3 October 2007

Since the cholera outbreak was first detected in Kirkuk, Northern Iraq, on 14 August 2007, it has spread to 9 out of 18 provinces across Iraq. It is estimated that more than 30 000 people have fallen ill with acute watery diarrhoea, among which 3 315 were identified as positive for Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium causing the disease. A total of 14 people are known to have died of the disease. The case-fatality rate has remained low throughout the outbreak indicating that those who have become sick have been able to access adequate treatment on time.

The disease is continuing to spread across Iraq and dissemination to as yet unaffected areas remains highly possible. Epidemiological curves are still rising in the provinces from which the majority of laboratory-confirmed cases have originated, Kirkuk (2309) and Sulaymaniah (870). An increasing number of cases of acute watery diarrhoea has also been reported in Diala, a province neighbouring Baghdad. Although V. cholerae has not yet been laboratory confirmed, the clinical symptoms indicate the presence of cholera. The numbers of cases are remaining stable in Basra, Baghdad, Dahuk, Mosul and Tikrit. However, a case has now been confirmed in Wasit, a province that has previously been unaffected by the outbreak.

The Government of Iraq has mobilized a multi-sectoral response to the outbreak. Specific control measures have been reinforced and preventive measures to reduce the risk of transmission to unaffected areas have been put in place. However, the overall quality of water and sanitation is very poor, a factor known to greatly facilitate cholera contamination. WHO is in the process of procuring 5,000,000 water-treatment tablets and two international WHO epidemiologists are being deployed to support the Ministry of Health in Iraq.

WHO does not recommend any restrictions to travel or trade to or from affected areas as a means to control the spread of cholera. However, neighbouring countries are encouraged to reinforce their active surveillance and preparedness systems. Mass chemoprophylaxis is strongly discouraged, as it has no effect on the spread of cholera, can have adverse effects by increasing antimicrobial resistance and provides a false sense of security.

Use of the current internationally available prequalified oral cholera vaccine is not recommended once an outbreak has started due to its 2-dose regimen and the time required to reach protective efficacy, high cost and the heavy logistics associated with its use. The use of the parenteral cholera vaccine has never been recommended by WHO due to its low protective efficacy and the high occurrence of severe adverse reactions.

For more information

Prevention and control of cholera outbreaks: WHO policy and recommendations
WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean
WHO cholera fact sheet
Cholera outbreak maps

... Payvand News - 10/5/07 ... --

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