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Cholera Spreads in Sudan, Threatens Chad and Ethiopia

The World Health Organization says it’s concerned about a strong re-emergence of cholera in Africa. The latest outbreak of the water-borne disease is in Sudan.

Dr. Claire-Lise Chaignat is head of the WHO’s Global Task Force on Cholera Control. From Geneva, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about outbreak in Sudan, where there have been more than 24,000 cases and 730 deaths.

“The outbreak there started in January and it slowly moved all across the country. And now we have a majority of states which are affected. The states that had been first affected are now showing a clear decrease in cases. There are still new states which are affected and that in fact is our concern,” she says.

The cholera case fatality rate of 3.2 percent, which Dr. Chaignat calls “quite high.” And there’s fear the cholera outbreak could spread to other countries.

“Bacteria and viruses don’t need any visas to cross borders. We are very much concerned because the outbreak is now moving more toward the west of Sudan and very, very much concerned about neighboring Chad. So, it is the same with Ethiopia. We’re very much concerned that the outbreak might move to Ethiopia,” she says.

In Ethiopia, there’s an outbreak of Acute Watery Diarrhea. It spread following the ongoing flooding there. But Dr. Chaignat says the flooding was not the cause and it may be tied to Sudan’s cholera outbreak. “This Acute Watery Diarrhea outbreak in Ethiopia started long before the floods. And in fact it started in Gambella region, which is a neighboring province to Sudan. And most probably there is a link between the two events.”

Sudan had gone for years without a major cholera outbreak, as had Angola, which has reported over 50,000 cases this year. “The epidemic has clearly moved toward southern and eastern Africa” following last year’s outbreak in West Africa, according to the WHO official.