Many of us think infectious and deadly disease such as smallpox and cholera diseases have disappeared forever but this is not the case. Recent news reports have spoken of the return of cholera and its emergence in some countries and regions living in unsafe conditions due to a lack of clean water.
Cholera is an intestinal infection caused by contaminated food or water that causes diarrhea and vomiting and can lead to severe dehydration and death in the absence of prompt treatment. Cholera is a preventable and treatable disease. But slow progress in safe water supply, with safe sanitation for the entire population and lack of access to patient health care mean that the disease continues to kill. Cholera remains a heavy burden on the world and vulnerable people and they need help.
In 2010, the rapid spread of cholera following the earthquake in Haiti, reminding the world that this disease is still deadly. An estimated 9,000 people have died of cholera in Haiti since the epidemic began, with thousands more infected. Cholera has always been a heavy burden for impoverished countries, especially in Africa and Southeast Asia. Recent years have seen outbreaks or epidemics of cholera in Cameroon, Somalia, South Africa and Yemen. Now there are fears of a potential outbreak in Iraq and especially in the Basra area.
The United Nations Human Rights Commission in Iraq announced late last month the registration of 18000 cases in Basra distributed between diarrhea and acute intestinal colic and vomiting, warning of the possibility of spreading cholera in the province. It has documented high levels of salinity in all levels of water fed to Shatt al-Arab, the decline of water in the rivers feeding the residential areas, and the increase of chemical and biological pollutants in the Shatt al-Arab due to the remnants of factories and sewage.
Basra Health Directorate said the risk of registering cholera infections in Basra is high if water salinity continues to rise, especially by the fall of September. Basra is located near the borders of Kuwait and I noticed that the Kuwaiti Ministry of Health (MOH) has been alert to the matter. The Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Affairs of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Majeda Al-Qattan said the ministry has taken all measures to prevent the possible transmission of cholera to Kuwait. Al-Qattan also stressed that there is continuous follow-up regarding the spread of the disease in the province of Basra in coordination with the relevant authorities and the World Health Organization and other international organizations and she noted that everyone must be aware of the importance of clean water sources, unsafe eating and following health instructions for travelers to Iraq at health outlets.
She also advised those coming from Iraq to check the nearest health center when the symptoms of diarrhea within seven days from the date of return to ensure their health and health of their relatives, noting they need not bring any food items with them. So far, no cases of cholera have been recorded in Kuwait, which is good but monitoring the situation is important.
I think there is a need for awareness by all travelers and strict rules about importing food from Iraq or anywhere else for that matter. Official news confirms that Kuwait is clean and free from infectious diseases but it is necessary to partner with border control and customs to ensure no infected persons, animals or food products enter the country.
By Muna Al-Fuzai