Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau: Cholera deaths soar, new cases continue to pour in

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BISSAU, 2 August (IRIN) - A cholera epidemic in Guinea-Bissau has now killed 64 people, the Health Ministry said, almost treble the number of deaths just three weeks ago.

In its latest bulletin published on Monday, the ministry said the number of cases of cholera had more than doubled over the same timeframe, with 4,331 cases now recorded since the epidemic began in this small West African nation in mid-June.

More than three quarters of those people suffering with cholera are to be found in the capital, Bissau, a city of 300,000 built on low-lying land on the banks of a muddy river estuary.

The health ministry said officials were still registering between 50 and 75 new cholera cases every day in Bissau, where 26 people have already died from the highly-infectious water-borne disease.

"We are very worried about how this epidemic is developing in the country. As you can see, the numbers are still going up," Tome Ca, the health ministry official overseeing the crisis, told IRIN.

Former colonial ruler, Portugal, has flown in 15 tonnes of drugs and medical equipment to help Guinea-Bissau deal with the cholera epidemic.

Cholera can quickly cause severe dehydration and death although a simple mix of water, sugar and salts is enough to save many.

The disease has struck all but two regions of the country - Bafata and Gabou in the east.

Eight Portuguese staff from the international aid agency Medecins du Monde, have been dispatched to the central region of Biombo which is the worst affected after the capital.

The government has urged people to boil all drinking water and wash their hands before eating and after going to the toilet.

But it has not so far undertaken measures to improve the quality of the water supply in Bissau, where many people rely on wells that have become polluted during the current rainy season.

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