Cholera death toll goes up in Zimbabwe

Five more people died from cholera and another 20 were treated for the gastrointestinal disease in a township near the Zimbabwe capital, a state-owned newspaper reported Monday.

Health authorities reported the new outbreak, bringing to 27 the number of cholera deaths since seasonal rains began in November in the Domboramwari district in Epworth township, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Harare, the state Herald said.

It was suspected the victims, aged between five and 43, drank contaminated water at a funeral last week. Twenty mourners were undergoing treatment over the weekend.

Eight people died in the central and northwestern districts of Kwekwe and Gokwe last week. Three died in western Harare last month. The previous outbreaks were in southern Zimbabwe.

In recent weeks, at least 250 people across the country have been treated for the disease, which is highly infectious and is mostly caused by the consumption of contaminated food and water in poor sanitary conditions. It leads to severe diarrhea and dehydration.

Health authorities say torrential seasonal rains have swept contaminated water from sewers and drains into drinking sources. More outbreaks are possible, they said.

Rainfall since November has been above average in most areas, causing minor flooding in some districts.

Harare has also suffered hundreds of dysentery cases this rainy season, brought on and mounting heaps of garbage. Sanitation and other public services have crumbled amid the worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980, blamed on years of erratic rains and the seizure of thousands of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans, reports the AP.

I.L.