Death toll in Yemen cholera outbreak hits nearly 700: WHO

GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) - A cholera epidemic in Yemen has killed at least 681 people and the outbreak has yet to peak, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures showing an increase in the death toll of nearly 50 percent since its last update on May 27.

WHO figures taken between April 27 and June 4 show 86,422 suspected cholera cases were recorded in 19 of Yemen’s 23 governorates, although the WHO said the increase was partly due to “better completeness of reporting”.

On May 29, the WHO reported 471 people had died in the period to May 27 and there were 51,832 suspected cases.

“Nationwide, this outbreak ‘second wave’ doesn’t seem to have yet reached its peak,” the WHO said in its bulletin.

The epidemic began in October, spread until December and then dwindled but was never brought fully under control. In April, a new surge in cases began.

Yemen has been hit hard by civil war, with 19 million of its 28 million people needing humanitarian aid and many of them on the verge of famine. Fewer than half of the country’s health facilities are fully functional.

The most affected governorates were Amanat al-Asimah, around the capital Sanaa, Hajjah, Amran and Hodeidah, all in north and western Yemen, with more than 53 percent of the cases reported since April 27.

Caused by ingesting bacteria from water or food contaminated with faeces, cholera usually manifests itself with sudden acute diarrhea and can kill within hours, although three-quarters of infected people show no symptoms.

The short incubation period means outbreaks can spread quickly, especially in places without safe water or sanitation.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Louise Ireland