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Cholera Cases Increase in Guinea-Bissau

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a cholera outbreak in Guinea-Bissau has claimed more than 90 lives over the past month.

More than 5,600 cases of cholera have been recorded in seven of Guinea-Bissau's nine provinces, and new cases are reported each day.

A journalist in the capital, Bissau, Alain Mballow, says, the cholera outbreak was announced in July, but authorities took little notice of it because the country was caught up in elections.

Cholera causes severe diarrhea, and if not treated, death from acute dehydration. Although the disease can be easily treated, Mr. Mballow says the stocks of cholera medicine in the Central Hospital of Bissau have expired and are unusable. Over 3,000 cases have been recorded in the capital.

People get cholera bacteria from eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Mr. Mballow says that in Guinea-Bissau, sewage has contaminated the water people are drinking.

Mr. Mballow says around 90 percent of Guinea-Bissau's population doesn't have drinking water, and get water from rain or rivers. He says rain has spread sewage into the water.

A cholera expert with the World Health Organization, Claire Lise Chaignat, says, in order to stop cholera from spreading, it is necessary to inform people about how water and food can be made safe.

"The water has to be boiled, or it has to be filtered, or it has to be chlorinated before being consumed," she explained. "And it is, of course, very important to have a personal hygiene that is adequate. That means hands need to be washed before preparing and before eating food."

The Guinea-Bissau government has begun a sanitation and information campaign, providing disinfectants at water reservoirs and at border crossings. However, the continuing rains have increased the risk of the disease spreading to neighboring countries, like Senegal and Guinea.