Cholera outbreak hits western, northern Uganda

KAMPALA, Nov 17, 2006 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Nine districts in western, northwestern and central Uganda have been hit by an outbreak of cholera, which has killed seven in a northern district.

The affected districts are Nebbi, Arua, Yumbe, Koboko, Moyo and Adjumani in northwestern region, Kasese, and Bundibugyo in western and the capital Kampala in the central.

In Kampala, the outbreak has spread to the city suburbs of Katwe, Mengo-Kisenyi, Namuwongo, Luzira, Katanga, Kalerwe and Kawempe. Local media reported earlier this week that the epidemic had killed seven residents and left over 176 others hospitalized in Arua district, north of Uganda, since July 12.

Sam Okware, the acting director in-charge of health services at the ministry of health quoted by the state-owned New Vision on Friday, attributed the rise of cholera cases to the continuous rains during this rainy season.

"Kampala has always had low-grade cholera. I think the rains have made the problem worse. Having five cases of cholera is not good. Even one case of cholera is an epidemic," he said.

Five people were admitted at the country's major referral hospital, Mulago Hospital, where a special unit was set up to handle cholera cases. The first case in the city was reported on November 4.

He said the state of hygiene in most of the slums around Kampala where the reported cases originated from was very poor and urged residents there to be extra careful.

The country's ministry of health has warned the public to be on the alert and report any suspected cases to the nearest health unit.

Cholera is caused by vibrio cholera germs and it is transmitted through eating contaminated foods with the pathogens that thrive in human fecal matter. The common symptoms include rice-watery stool, abdominal cramps and rapid dehydration.

Sam Zaramba, the Director General of Health Services, issued a statement on Thursday urging the public to be vigilant in reporting suspected cases of cholera.

Recommended measures by the health ministry include washing hands with soap before preparing food and after going to the toilet or latrine and boiling drinking water.