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Cholera epidemic takes hold in Senegal

A total of 199 people have been diagnosed with cholera — a deadly but preventable disease that is generally contracted from polluted water supplies — and two have died in the West African state of Senegal, health officials said on Friday.

The head of a committee set up to monitor the progress of the epidemic, which was first detected on October 11, said most of the cases recorded to date were in and around the capital Dakar, with a few in the west-central region of Bambey.

Two people died in Dakar hospitals as a result of the outbreak earlier in the week, and no less than 48 new cases were reported between Thursday and Friday, said Papa Salif Sow, who heads the infectious diseases department at Dakar’s Fann teaching hospital. He also chairs the special cholera committee.

Of the 197 people still suffering from cholera, which causes vomiting and severe diarrhoea that can result in rapid dehydration, all but 10 have been sent home after hospital treatment, said Sow.

The first case in the current outbreak was diagnosed on October 11 in the central Dakar neighbourhood of Colobane, officials say.

In addition to activating an emergency treatment plan, Senegalese authorities have been disinfecting houses occupied by patients, and also taking preventative measures in affected or vulnerable neighbourhoods.

Street merchants have furthermore been banned from selling containers of water, fruit juice and other foodstuffs likely to spread the cholera bacterium.

It is the first cholera epidemic in Senegal since 1997. The last major outbreak in the country was from 1995 to 1997. — Sapa-AFP

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