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Cholera outbreak kills 11 in Malawi

Wednesday December 31 2008

LILONGWE, Wednesday (Reuters) - A cholera outbreak in Malawi's main commercial city has killed at least 11 people, a senior health official said on Wednesday.

Health officials have been on alert fearing that a cholera epidemic in neighbouring Zimbabwe could spread the disease to the southern African country and compound the problem.

Malawi's secretary for health Chris Kang'ombe said 248 cases have been reported since the outbreak last week in Lilongwe.

"We are providing water treatment in affected areas and are discouraging people from preparing food at funerals and buying cooked meals from vendors," he said.

The rate of cholera infections and deaths in Zimbabwe shows no signs of slowing, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday. It said 1,608 people had died of the disease out of 30,365 reported cases.

Cholera is transmitted by contaminated water or food. At its most acute, cholera causes diarrhoea that can lead to death by severe dehydration and kidney failure.

Malawian health officials told the local press that with the onset of the rainy season and prolonged water shortages in Lilongwe, the disease could spread further.