The world’s cholera situation is deteriorating, the World Health Organization confirmed in an update Wednesday, with two dozen countries now reporting cases, including Yemen. Photo by Yahya Arhab/EPA-EFE
March 22 (UPI) -- The world's cholera situation is deteriorating, the World Health Organization confirmed in an update Wednesday, with two dozen countries now reporting cases.
The 24 separate countries are reporting some level of cholera cases as of Monday, the WHO said in a statement.
A majority of cases are in southeast Africa, with extended outbreaks continuing to plague Malawi and Mozambique.
Since January, new outbreaks were reported in Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia, according to the WHO.
Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which pummeled parts of East Africa in February only exacerbated the situation.
The storm approached levels equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane, and the heavy rain, flooding and damage to water and sewer systems is helping to fuel further cholera outbreaks.
Overall, more than 36,000 people have been infected and 1,700 killed since "unprecedented rise in cholera cases worldwide" last year, according to the WHO.
Many of the countries reporting outbreaks are also seeing a higher mortality rate among those that contract the acute diarrheal illness, caused by infection of the intestine with Vibrio cholerae bacteria.
About 1 in 10 people with cholera will experience severe symptoms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though the infection can sometimes be severe or life-threatening, it is more often mild or entirely without symptoms.
"The overall capacity to respond to the multiple and simultaneous outbreaks continues to be strained due to the global lack of resources, including shortages of the oral cholera vaccine, as well as overstretched public health and medical personnel, who are dealing with multiple disease outbreaks and other health emergencies at the same time," the WHO said Wednesday.
"Based on the current situation, WHO assesses the risk at the global level as very high."