Cases increasing in Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak
Since August 2008, an extensive outbreak of cholera has been affecting much of Zimbabwe, adding to the already extensive burden of starvation being faced by much of the population. As of 8 December, more than 15,000 suspected cases including 774 deaths (giving an overall case fatality rate of 4.9%) have been reported from 9 of 10 provinces in Zimbabwe. Around 60% of cases reported are in Harare, the capital. The fatality rates appear to be much higher in the more rural areas (as high as 50% in some reports). In addition cases are being reported in neighbouring countries; in South Africa (468 cases, with 9 deaths) and Mozambique (310 cases with 9 deaths).
Travellers to Zimbabwe should boil all water for consumption (including water for brushing teeth) or use bottled water produced by reputable companies. Ice cubes should be avoided. It is important to bear in mind that vegetables and salads may have been washed in contaminated water and should be avoided unless you are sure the water used to rinse them has been boiled or bottled. It is important to observe good personal hygiene and wash hands following use of the toilet and before eating or feeding small children.
Further information on cholera can be found here http://www.ndsc.ie/hpsc/A-Z/Gastroenteric/Cholera/Factsheet/. Updates on the situation in Zimbabwe are available on the Cholera website of the World Health Organization at http://www.who.int/topics/cholera/en. Given the political uncertainty in Zimbabwe at the moment, the Department of Foreign Affairs is advising travellers to Zimbabwe to exercise extreme caution. Further travel information is available at the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs here http://www.foreignaffairs.gov.ie/home/index.aspx?id=8595.