In just a matter of a couple days, the number of cholera cases and deaths in Yemen have increased quite dramatically. The World Health Organization country office in Yemen today reported over 29,300 suspected cholera cases and 315 associated deaths in 19 of Yemen’s 22 governorates in three weeks. This puts the case fatality rate at above 1 percent.
This is up from 23,400 cases and 242 deaths on Friday.
On Saturday, international medical organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned that the outbreak is threatening to get out of control. “The fast spread of the current outbreak is extremely alarming,” says Ghassan Abou Chaar, MSF’s head of mission in Yemen. “Before the outbreak, the health system was already overstretched and people’s health needs were already huge. To bring the outbreak under control, it won’t be enough simply to treat those people who reach medical facilities. We also need to address the source of the disease, by improving water and sanitation and working in communities to prevent new cases.”
UN health officials warned that Yemen could have as many as 300,000 cases of cholera within six months and an “extremely high” number of deaths.
Since the outbreak started in October 2016, Yemen has seen in excess of 50,000 cases and 362 deaths.
According to WHO, Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Every year, there are an estimated 3 to 5 million cholera cases and 100,000 to 120, 000 deaths due to cholera. The short incubation period of two hours to five days, enhances the potentially explosive pattern of outbreaks.
Cholera is an extremely virulent disease. It affects both children and adults and can kill within hours. About 75% of people infected with Vibrio cholerae do not develop any symptoms, although the bacteria are present in their feces for 7–14 days after infection and are shed back into the environment, potentially infecting other people.
The agency estimates that 7.6 million people live in areas at high risk of cholera transmission.