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WHO: Tanzania Cholera Epidemic Worsens

The World Health Organization and Tanzanian Ministry of Health are stepping up efforts to contain and discover the source of a cholera epidemic that so far has killed eight people and infected more than 400 others.

WHO data indicates the fast-spreading epidemic broke out in the Dar es Salaam and Morogoro regions nearly two weeks ago; the Dar es Salaam region has been most adversely affected with 354 cases and seven deaths.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier tells VOA the outbreak caught health officials by surprise.

“The spike is an unusual spike right now because it jumped in short time from a few hundred cases to the 404 cases," he said. "Yet cholera is endemic in Tanzania, so, as such, it is not a worrying situation, but it needs to be addressed."

After assessing needs on the ground in affected areas, WHO officials have begun procuring laboratory reagents for diagnosis. Lindmeier also says the agency is outfitting five operational treatment centers in the affected region with medical supplies and chemicals to treat water and disinfectants.

WHO officials have said they see no connection between the current outbreak and a prior, more serious outbreak in western Tanzania's Kigoma region, which border portions of Lake Tanganyika and Burundi.

“The cholera outbreak in Kigoma region reported between May and July related to the refugees coming from Burundi at that time has been brought under control with no new cases from that area for nearly a month," Lindmeier said.

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza's April announcement to seek a controversial third term triggered political violence that prompted tens of thousands of Burundians to flee to Kigoma.

The epidemic among refugees resulted in more than 4,800 cases and claimed dozens of lives.