FIVE people have died and more than 50 others hospitalised following a fresh outbreak of cholera in Hoima district.
The district director of health services, Dr Matthew Emel, told The New Vision that Kyangwali sub-county on the shores of Lake Albert was the worst hit.
He said the most affected areas include Nsonga and Kyenjojo.
"We are trying to control the disease and we have even camped in the affected areas but the situation is still alarming," Emel said.
He said non governmental organisations like Red Cross had also joined his team to fight the disease.
KINSHASA, March 8 (Reuters) - A deadly cholera outbreak which has killed hundreds of people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is finally being brought under control, health officials said on Friday.
The central African country, embroiled in a three-year war, said this week there had been 5,021 cases and 407 deaths from the illness in southeastern Katanga province since November.
"The death rate for the epidemic has dropped from 11 percent to six percent over the past week," Mobile Kampanga, an adviser with Congo's Health Ministry, told Reuters.
Congo's health minister, Mamba Mashako, returned late on Thursday from Katanga province, part of which is controlled by rebel forces caught up in Congo's war which started in 1998 when rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda invaded.
Cholera is spread through contaminated food and water. It is an acute intestinal infection which causes copious, painless watery diarrhoea which can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if not treated promptly.
In most cases it can be treated by rehydrating patients and the fatality rate is less than one percent if there are proper treatment programmes. However, if there are no facilities the fatality rate can quickly rise to as high as 50 percent.
More than two million people have died over the past three years in Congo, mostly from starvation and diseases such as malaria, AIDS and cholera. Another two million people have been displaced by fighting, mostly in the east.
"Even when people flee fighting, they still must drink water and often it's not clean," said Kampanga.
An emergency team from the United Nations Children's Fund, World Health Organisation, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) went to the region last week to bring the epidemic under control, Kampanga said.
The conflict in Congo began when rebel groups backed by Rwanda and Uganda invaded former Zaire to topple the central government, in turn backed by Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia.
No side has been able to win a clear military victory, but Congo has been carved into three main spheres of control, with the government controlling the western and southern provinces.
Three people died and over 100 were admitted at various health units in Nebbi district following an outbreak of cholera in Dei, Panyimur sub-county, Padyere county.
The district director of health services, Dr. Sam Orach Orochi, said cholera broke out around June 28 in Dei landing site, Panyimur on Lake Albert and 46 cases were reported.
Orach told a special emergency district disaster task force committee meeting recently that cholera had spread rapidly to areas of Nyapea, Akworo, Congo, Panyigoro and Parombo.
He said the admission rate of patients was high in Panyimur with 89 cases followed by Parombo and Panyigoro with seven cases each.
Orach said Nyapea, Akworo and Congo had two cases each totalling to 109 cases in the district.
He said 69.5% of the cases were below 20 years of age, 46.8% below 10 years of age and 51.6% were male.
Orach said the weekly district disaster management committee chaired by the Resident District Commissioner, Peter W'oceng, resolved that Dei and Singla markets in Panyimur be temporarily closed to curb the rapid spread of the disease.
"The information about the cholera outbreak reached the district after one week and we immediately sent a team of medical workers to control the situation. We have given them enough drugs to fight the disease," he said.
Orach said two to three cases were being reported per day.
THE cholera epidemic in Kasese is still untamed, doctors in the district's three main hospitals have said.
The 80 cases, all of them UPDF soldiers who recently contracted the disease, have slowly responded to treatment.
Bwera hospital authorities said there were more cases of soldiers infected with the disease but have not reported to hospital.
"We have four cases now as compared to the 28 we had last week," the doctor who preferred anonymity, said.
The Ugandan health authorities on Tuesday said several medical teams had been dispatched to districts affected by a cholera epidemic sweeping through most of the country's western regions, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
John Kyabaggu, the director of health services told journalists on Tuesday that nine deaths and over 230 cases of cholera had been reported in the west over the past two weeks alone. The districts most affected were Bundibugyo, Hoima, Kasese, and Masindi, he said. Cases had also been reported in Kabarole, Arua and Nebbi.
Kyabaggu went on to say that the epidemic had now been brought "under control". "We already have a surveillance team from headquarters that is monitoring the situation and visiting the affected areas," he said.
He attributed the outbreak to the "uncontrolled" human and commercial traffic across the border with the DRC, and poor sanitation and hygienic practices. He urged the public to observe "proper hygienic conditions" such as ensuring that they regularly boiled their drinking water.
Local media reported on Monday that those being treated for cholera in Kasese included over 80 Ugandan soldiers. Maj Shaban Bantariza, the spokesman of the Uganda People's Defence Forces, told IRIN that the affected soldiers had been dispatched to the region on a mission to recover Ugandan livestock stolen by rustlers from the DRC.
Bantariza attributed the epidemic to poor hygiene practices among pastoralist groups living in the region. "This area is a chronic case. The nomadic people don't use modern toilet facilities, so when it rains, all the water gets contaminated," he said.
Cholera has killed nine people in Bundibugyo district, where 117 cases were reported over the last two weeks.
The Ministry of Health said in a statement yesterday that 223 were affected as the epidemic rapidly spread in the western districts bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The statement by Dr. J. H. Kyabaggu, said 93 cases were reported in Kasese, 16 in Hoima and eight in Kabarole but with no deaths yet.
"The risk factors in these districts include uncontrolled human and commercial traffic across the border with the DRC, poor sanitation, lack of safe drinking water and poor hygienic practices," the statement said.
It indicated that other cholera-prone districts of Arua, Nebbi and Kampala had each reported less than two cases in the past two weeks.
Kyabaggu said the ministry, affected districts and other institutions had initiated control programmes.
They include regular meetings by the district cholera task forces, sanitation campaigns, early case management, and provision of essential supplies
He said the epidemic was under control.
There have been 17 new cholera cases reported in Bundibugyo this week bringing the total number of cases up from 91 to 116.
Seven more deaths were also reported increasing the death toll to 16 since the cholera epidemic broke out three weeks ago, the Epidemiological Surveillance Division of the Ministry of Health has reported. In the districts neighbouring Bundibugyo there were still some reported cases despite drastic falls since the outbreak. Nine cases were reported in Hoima up from five last week with one death.
In Kasese there were only three reported cases compared to 71 three weeks ago. Western Uganda is the only area in the country that has been affected by the cholera epidemic.
UPDF soldiers going in and out of DR Congo have made up most of the cases in the past. The first cases in Bundibugyo were mostly UPDF soldiers who had come from Kasese. Dr John Ndyalinkayo, an epidemiologist in the Ministry of Health's epidemiological department, however, said the cholera outbreak in Bundibugyo may have been caused by contaminated water around Lake Albert.
He said district officials and Ministry of Health workers were on the ground trying to contain the situation.
"We are treating the sick now. We are also holding health education classes," he said. Dr. Ndyalinkayo added that it was hard to say when the situation would be contained but said that better sanitation would help fight the problem a great deal.
"We also encourage early reporting of cases so that people can get treatment early."
FOUR more people have died of cholera in Kasese while about 170 others have been reported infected with the epidemic that seems to defy all efforts to bring it down, reports John Thawite.
Quoting a recent district surveillance report, medical sources at Rukoki on Tuesday said the cumulative figures were 96 and 71 during the weeks ending July 20 and 27 respectively.
The district director health services, Dr Peter Okui, said 20 cholera patients had been admitted at Bwera Hospital over the weekend. District officials have blamed the persistence of the disease on lack of latrines and unhygienic conditions in neighbouring Kasindi in the DR Congo sides of the border.
"The latest statistics on latrine coverage in the district are alarming," the district secretary for children and health affairs, Zepher Mubingwa, told a Water and Sanitation meeting at Rukoki on Tuesday.
Mubingwa said latrine coverage in some villages was as low as 0-2%.
He said most of the infections originated from neighbouring DRC.