The number of laboratory-confirmed cholera cases in the current outbreak in Iraq is now at 2,055  since September 15, 2015, according to the World Health Organization Tuesday.

Iraq map/CIA
Iraq map/CIA

The UN agency says as an integrated part of the current outbreak response strategy oral cholera vaccines have been mobilized through the international coordination group based in Geneva. Based on a public health risk assessment a number of displacement camps housing Syrian refugees and internally displaced Iraqis have been determined to be at high risk for further spread of the cholera outbreak.

In addition to current prevention and control measures, WHO is working with the MOH to provide Oral Cholera Vaccines in a (OCV) immunization campaign for vulnerable populations in 62 refugee, IDP camps and collective centers throughout the country, targeting approximately 249,319 people. This is the first time Iraq will introduce the OCV Shanchol vaccine.

Two doses of vaccine are required for an individual to be protected. The campaign begins with an initial round of vaccinations followed by – after a required, minimum 14 days interval – a second round of doses, which will complete the vaccination. For such a campaign to be effective, it is vital that a second dose is administered. The first round is scheduled to take place on 31 October.

Targeted social mobilization, campaign logistics and health education are key components to ensure the successful implementation of OCV. In order to achieve herd immunity all members of a family above 1 year of age must be vaccinated.

Additional staff from WHO and health cluster partners have been deployed to Iraq in order to support the Cholera response measures, facilitate the logistics and preparation of the campaign in select locations to ensure we protect as many people as we can says Altaf Musani, Acting WHO Representative.

The provision of safe water, sanitation and personal hygiene will continue to be the critical cholera prevention and control measures. ADD ref here of past OCV in other countries. Cholera vaccination is a safe and effective additional tool that can be used under the right conditions to supplement existing priority cholera control measures, not to replace, them, we must accelerate our prevention and control measures before, during and after the 2 successive rounds, he adds.