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Saudi Arabia Well Prepared as WHO Warns of Cholera Outbreak During Hajj

Jul 17, 2017

 

Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News – 17-07-2017

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says a cholera epidemic in Yemen, which has infected more than 332,000 people, could spread during the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia in September, although Saudi authorities are well prepared.

Hajj draws about 2, 4 million Muslims every year, including 1.5-2 million foreigners, raising the risk from diseases such as dengue, yellow fever, Zika virus and meningococcal disease as well as cholera.

Dominique Legros, a WHO cholera expert, says Saudi Arabia had not had a cholera outbreak in many years thanks to reinforced surveillance and rapid tests to detect cases early.

“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.”

The incubation period of cholera which spreads through ingestion of faecal matter and causes acute watery diarrhoea, is a matter of hours. Once symptoms start, cholera can kill within hours if the patient does not get treatment.

But Legros says people with symptoms are just the tip of the iceberg because 80 percent of patients show no symptoms.

“That’s why we advise countries against airport screening for patients. The Saudis don’t do that. It’s useless, technically speaking.”

The WHO has rolled out an emergency treatment programme, based on the vestiges of Yemen’s shattered health system, to try and catch new cases early and stop the explosive spread of the disease.

According to Reuters analysis of WHO data the number of new cases has continued to grow by about 6,000 per day, but the number of deaths appears to have slowed dramatically.

 

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