- Even before the start of the disease-charged annual rainy season, at least 133 people have died of cholera in Guinea, or almost 10 percent of those infected, health authorities said this weekend.
Mahy Barry, a Health Ministry director, said a total 1,530 cases had been officially registered since the start of the six-month epidemic.
Cholera, an acute intestinal infection spread by contaminated water and food, often strikes in West Africa after the onset of the annual rains, as latrines overflow and wells become polluted in rural and under-developed areas.
Highly contagious and causing acute diarrhoea and vomiting, cholera can kill within days if left untreated. Yet lives can be saved with simple re-hydration salts and fluids, and the disease kept at bay with simple hygiene measures.
Barry said most victims had contracted the disease through drinking water from locally drilled wells. "Most of these wells are dug close to latrines in towns and villages, hence the fatal combination that kills people," he said.
According to the health ministry, most of the fatalities have occurred in the country's Forest Region, with the towns of Gueckedou, Kissidougou, Nzerekore and Lola all affected. Fatalities have been highest in Kissidougou, where at least 80 people have died.
Barry said this year’s epidemic started at the beginning of February and worsened between April and May when it claimed most of its victims. Last month there was a dramatic drop in reported cases, he said, with no deaths reported so far in July.
Although the Health Ministry has been heavily engaged in awareness campaigns year in year out, the disease continues to claim increasing numbers of lives and it is feared that the rainy season, which this year is late, could revive the epidemic.
Guinea, listed as one of the world’s 20 poorest countries by the UN, has the kind of urban poverty and squalor that breed disease.
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