Lebanese caretaker Health Minister Firass Abiad has warned that cholera could become “endemic” in Lebanon if the country fails to curb the spread of its infection.
Making the remarks during a visit to public hospitals in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, Abiad urged Lebanon to grasp the “golden opportunity” to stop the transmission, as “the epidemic is still in its infancy and can be stopped.”
The health ministry has been monitoring preparedness work in securing enough hospital beds for a possible surge in cholera inpatients, Abia added.
He warned that the epidemic would not only impact Lebanon’s health sector but also agri-products exports and tourism.
Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated, and the supply of safe water and sanitation is critical to the prevention and control of its transmission, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO published a fact sheet on cholera in March, saying a cholera-endemic area is an area where confirmed cholera cases were detected during the last three years with evidence of local transmission, meaning the cases are not imported from elsewhere.
The ministry’s updated Cholera Surveillance Report on Saturday shows that the country logged 10 new confirmed cases and one new death, bringing the respective totals to 381 and 17.
The WHO said in its report that on Oct. 6, the Lebanese Health Ministry notified it of two lab culture-confirmed cholera cases reported from the northern part of the country, which represents the first cholera outbreak in Lebanon since 1993.
On 11 October, Abiad had already raised concerns about the fast spread of cholera and called on international organizations to increase their support to contain the infection.
He said that 70 percent of cholera cases come from refugee camps. Still, he added that an increasing number of infections recently appeared among Lebanese citizens.
Abiad attributed the spread of cholera infections to contaminated water and close contact with infected people.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has developed a joint response plan, in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health, to prevent and contain the cholera outbreak.