Senegal

Senegal: Lingering cholera epidemic gains new strength

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DAKAR, 23 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - The number of cholera cases in Senegal has risen sharply this month after a two-month lull in a lingering epidemic that began last year, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Figures released by the ministry showed a total 1,790 new cases and 31 deaths countrywide between 6 June and 22 June.

"Given the situation, the Ministry of Health and Preventive Medicine has decided to reinforce measures to battle against the disease," the ministry said in a statement.

These measures would include the distribution of more drugs, a higher profile public information campaign and the redeployment of medical staff to deal with the resurgence of the disease, it added.

The main focus of the epidemic continues to be west central Senegal.

The ministry said the worst-hit areas this month were the Diourbel region about 150 east of Dakar and the Fatick region 200 km southeast of the capital.

Diourbel region is home to the Muslim holy city of Touba, where more than a million pilgrims congregated for an annual festival in late March during an earlier peak in the epidemic.

The massive gathering led to an explosion of cholera cases in the Diourbel region and the epidemic then spread right across Senegal as infected pilgrims carried the water-borne disease home with them.

The epidemic began in Dakar last October, when the city of four million people suffered its first cholera outbreak for eight years.

By December, the authorities managed to contain the disease, which is usually caused by poor sanitation and dirty drinking water.

However, it resurfaced in February in Diourbel region and hit a peak on 2 April when 785 new cases of cholera were registered in a single day.

Since then, the number of new cases has declined from over 3,000 per week to about 500, the ministry said.

The latest upsurge in the disease became evident in the week to 12 June, when 783 new cases and eight deaths were recorded.

The number of new cases remained high in the following week, ending 19 June, when there were 746 new cases and 19 deaths.

Cholera causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting that leads to dehydration of the body and can prove fatal unless treated quickly.

[ENDS]

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