As Hajj Approaches, Worry Over Spread of Yemen's Cholera Outbreak

As Hajj Approaches, Worry Over Spread of Yemen's Cholera Outbreak
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Published July 15th, 2017 - 18:00 GMT via

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Yemen's cholera epidemic has so far killed at least 1,700 people (file photo)
Yemen's cholera epidemic has so far killed at least 1,700 people (file photo)
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the cholera outbreak in Yemen could spread during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia in September.
The WHO announced on Friday that the pilgrimage draws two to four million Muslims each year, of whom about 1.5 to two million are foreigners, raising the risk from illnesses such as dengue, yellow fever, Zika virus and meningococcal disease as well as cholera, Al-Manar reported.
The WHO cholera expert, Dominique Legros, said reinforced surveillance and rapid tests to detect cases early helped Saudi Arabia avoid a cholera outbreak for many years.
"Don’t forget that today we are speaking of Yemen but they are receiving pilgrims from a lot of endemic countries, and they managed not to have an outbreak, essentially by making sure that living conditions, access to water in particular, hygienic conditions, are in place," he stressed at a regular UN briefing, adding that "they are well-prepared in my view."
The incubation period of the disease is a matter of hours and once symptoms begin, cholera can kill within hours if the patient does not receive treatment. The WHO expert, however, said 80 percent of patients show no symptoms, making airport screening “useless”.
"That’s why we advise countries against airport screening for patients. The Saudis don’t do that. It's useless, technically speaking," Legros added.
The International Committee of the Red Cross Spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet announced that the death toll of cholera in Yemen stands at 1,700.
"Unfortunately, we have a perfect storm in Yemen," she said, adding that "the country has been brought to its knees because of this conflict."
The Red Cross has also reported that the cholera outbreak in Yemen has reached a rampant pace of growth, with more than 300,000 cases suspected in the war torn nation of 25 million.
The International Committee of the Red Cross stressed that the cholera epidemic, which is growing by 7,000 new cases every day in just a fraction of the country, "continues to spiral out of control."

According to several reports, the Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen has driven the impoverished country towards humanitarian disaster.

Nearly 3.3 million Yemeni people, including 2.1 million children, are currently suffering from acute malnutrition. The conlfict has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

The country's Health Ministry has already announced that 21 of a total 22 Yemeni provinces are threatened by the disease. On mid-May, it also declared a state of emergency in the capital Sana'a in connection with the epidemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that 7.6 million Yemenis live in areas with a high risk of cholera transmission.

The WHO now classifies Yemen as one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world alongside Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and Iraq.

This article has been edited for length from the original.

©2017 Fars News Agency. All rights reserved

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