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Zambia Cholera Epidemic Continues to Slow as Number of Deaths Declines

FILE - Doctors care for patients affected by Cholera at the Heroes stadium temporary transformed in a hospital on Jan. 15, 2018 in Lusaka, Zambia.

Zambia's cholera epidemic continues to slow with seven deaths recorded over the last month, Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya said on Tuesday.

Eighty five people have now died since the outbreak of the disease in October, out of 4,202 cases, Chilufya said in a statement in parliament.

"I must confirm that the cholera outbreak is ab[at]ing," he said.

Zambia closed some schools and markets, among other measures, to curb the spread of the disease but relaxed them in mid-January after the number of new cases reported halved.

The disease has mostly affected the capital Lusaka which had registered 4,036 cases and 75 deaths, mainly due to unplanned settlements, Chilufya said.

He compared it to a similar cholera outbreak in Zambia in 1999, although that affected 13,000 people and caused 500 deaths.

Neighboring Malawi has also seen an outbreak of the disease and said on Monday that cases had tripled and four more people had died, bringing the total number of fatalities to eight.

Cholera is a bacterial disease transmitted through food and water that causes severe diarrhoea that can sometimes lead to deadly dehydration.

Zambia's Treasury has allocated 64 million Zambian kwachas ($6.5 million) to help fight the disease, Chilufya said.

In December, President Edgar Lungu directed the military to clean markets and unblock drains to stop the spread of the disease.

($1 = 9.8250 Zambian kwachas)

Reporting by Chris Mful.