Sudanese doctors urge measures against cholera outbreak

July 2, 2017 by Brian Rohan
In this handout photo provided by the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, taken in June 2017, victims with acute diarrhea are treated in makeshift tents in White Nile state, Sudan. The government denies the country is suffering from a cholera outbreak although doctors and diplomats have reported confirmed cases, and hundreds have died since late May. (Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors via AP)

Sudanese doctors and aid workers urged the government to declare a state of emergency over a cholera outbreak and delay the start of the school year, which began on Sunday, although authorities say the situation is under control.

The disease, which is passed through contaminated water, has surfaced across the country, including in the capital, Khartoum, prompting the U.S. Embassy last month to issue a warning and note that fatalities had been confirmed. Egypt has begun screening passengers from Sudan at Cairo's international airport.

Some 22,000 cases of acute watery diarrhea have led to at least 700 fatalities since May 20, said Hossam al-Amin al-Badawi, of the independent Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors. He added that the condition is most likely , but the refuses to officially release test results for it.

Sudanese doctors say the cholera, a bacterial infection linked to contaminated food or water, is progressing. They are urging the government to seek international aid, a step linked to declaring a state of emergency. If left untreated, it can cause death from dehydration.

"It risks becoming an epidemic, especially in rural areas," said Alfatih Masoud, of the non-official Sudanese Doctors Union. "Our ministry insists on referring to it as diarrhea for political reasons, and opening schools today is dangerous because they are possible places of rapid transmission." Photos of affected areas online show patients crowded into makeshift tents for treatment.

Masoud said that watery diarrhea is a symptom, not a diagnosis, and that the level of immediacy required for rehydration of patients in the current cases pointed to cholera as the diagnosis.

In this handout photo provided by the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, taken in June 2017, victims with acute diarrhea are treated in makeshift tents in White Nile state, Sudan. The government denies the country is suffering from a cholera outbreak although doctors and diplomats have reported confirmed cases, and hundreds have died since late May. (Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors via AP)

Meanwhile, activists reported on social media that nine opposition party members were detained in the city of Omdurman late last month for organizing workshops on cholera prevention—partly for using the name the government sees as a provocation.

Sudan's official news agency SUNA meanwhile announced the opening of the school year, saying that authorities had the outbreak of "acute watery diarrhea" under control. Authorities, who have previously acknowledged some 350 deaths, say that infections are decreasing.

"Health Minister Bahr Idriss Abu Garda announced a significant decline in cases of watery diarrhea in all states of Sudan, especially White Nile State thanks to the interventions carried out by his ministry," the Health Ministry said in its most recent statement on its website, dated June 13.

Activists and the opposition say President Omar al-Bashir's government refuses to acknowledge the cholera outbreak because it would reveal failures in the country's crumbling health system, where corruption is rife.

"The government silence and inability to confront the epidemic, preferring to achieve political victories, is at the expense of the health and life of citizens," the opposition Sudanese Congress Party said in a statement to The Associated Press. The group is urging all political parties and civil society groups to press for the state of emergency so that Sudan can invite foreign assistance.

Neighboring South Sudan is grappling with the "the longest, most widespread and most deadly " since it won independence from Sudan in 2011, according to the U.N. Since the outbreak began a year ago, over 11,000 cases have been reported, including at least 190 deaths, according to the World Health Organization and South Sudan's government.

In this handout photo provided by the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, taken in June 2017, doctors work in makeshift tents to treat victims with acute diarrhea in White Nile state, Sudan. The government denies the country is suffering from a cholera outbreak although doctors and diplomats have reported confirmed cases, and hundreds have died since late May. (Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors via AP)

The arrival of refugees from there poses a contagion risk, the WHO said, because their host areas are overcrowded and lack adequate sanitation.

"The arrival of refugees from cholera-affected areas in South Sudan increases the threat of importation of the disease into Sudan, placing both refugees and host communities at risk," it said in an emailed response to the AP.

The group, which has been working in Sudan's affected areas and helping the government vaccinate against cholera, says the response to cholera and acute watery diarrhea is not that different.

"The key point to look at is whether health partners are free to act to provide the care that people need," it said. "At this moment, we are."

Explore further: Cholera reaches South Sudan's second-largest city, UN says

Related Stories

Cholera reaches South Sudan's second-largest city, UN says

March 10, 2017
South Sudan's cholera outbreak has reached the country's second-largest city, the United Nations said Friday, while the number of cases nationwide has risen beyond 5,500.

Suspected diarrhoea kills 38 Sudanese in one month: UN

June 28, 2017
Suspected acute diarrhoea has killed 38 Sudanese in the past month and 317 since August 2016, the UN said Wednesday, warning the outbreak could worsen ahead of the rainy season.

Official: Seven die in South Sudan cholera outbreak

June 22, 2015
Cholera has killed seven people in the South Sudan capita of Juba, the head of the isolation ward at the nation's main public hospital said Monday.

As South Sudan's civil war rages, cholera takes deadly toll

June 29, 2017
Clasping frail arms around his stomach, Machar Weituor doubles over in pain as he slowly positions himself over the hole in his bed. Too feeble to make it to the toilet, the 40-year-old groans faintly as he defecates into ...

Yemen cholera death toll mounts to 209: UNICEF

May 17, 2017
A cholera outbreak in Yemen has killed 209 people in recent weeks with 17,200 suspected cases across the war-torn country, the United Nations children's agency said Wednesday.

11 dead in suspected South Sudan cholera outbreak: UNICEF

July 19, 2016
UNICEF says 11 people have died in a suspected cholera outbreak in South Sudan.

Recommended for you

PET scans to optimize tuberculosis meningitis treatments and personalize care, study finds

December 6, 2018
Although relatively rare in the United States, and accounting for fewer than 5 percent of tuberculosis cases worldwide, TB of the brain—or tuberculosis meningitis (TBM)—is often deadly, always hard to treat, and a particular ...

Silicosis is on the rise, but is there a therapeutic target?

December 6, 2018
Researchers from the CNRS, the University of Orléans, and the company Artimmune, in collaboration with Turkish clinicians from Atatürk University, have identified a key mechanism of lung inflammation induced by silica exposure, ...

Infectivity of different HIV-1 strains may depend on which cell receptors they target

December 6, 2018
Distinct HIV-1 strains may differ in the nature of the CCR5 molecules to which they bind, affecting which cells they can infect and their ability to enter cells, according to a study published December 6 in the open-access ...

Protecting cell powerhouse paves way to better treatment of acute kidney injury

December 6, 2018
For the first time, scientists have described the body's natural mechanism for temporarily protecting the powerhouses of kidney cells when injury or disease means they aren't getting enough blood or oxygen.

New study uncovers why Rift Valley fever is catastrophic to developing fetuses

December 5, 2018
Like Zika, infection with Rift Valley fever virus can go unnoticed during pregnancy, all the while doing irreparable—often lethal—harm to the fetus. The results of a new study, led by researchers at the University of ...

Study highlights potential role of bioaerosol sampling to address airborne biological threats

December 5, 2018
As a leading global city with a high population density, Singapore is vulnerable to the introduction of biological threats. Initiating an early emergency response to such threats calls for the rapid identification of the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.