Pakistan floods spark cholera fears17th August 2010
The US is sending medical aid to Pakistan, where a cholera epidemic is brewing.
A senior US aid official said that he hoped a serious outbreak would not happen there.
Pakistan has been hit by floods recently, with 14 million people affected. International and Pakistani relief groups have both sent teams of medics as a result.
The flooding, which has destroyed crops and livestock, is a result of the ongoing monsoon season, in which seasonal winds from the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea cause downpours.
So far, flooding in Pakistan's Indus river basin has killed more than 1,600 people.
Among the living, at least one case of cholera has been confirmed.
Mark Ward, acting director of foreign disaster assistance, for the US Agency for International Development, said that his organisation suspected there were already more unrecorded cases requiring treatment.
He said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had an early warning system for the disease, which would allow teams of doctors to stop cholera before it had a chance to spread.
The team will be on the lookout for other waterborne illnesses as well.
Cholera is a bacterial infection affecting the intestines. Symptoms of cholera infection include severe diarrhoea and dehydration.
The disease can be fatal.
Ward said that heavily populated countries dealing with large amounts of water often experienced outbreaks of cholera, but that he felt his team would be able to stop the disease from spreading.
He said that one of the most important things was to ensure that people already showing symptoms of cholera be brought to clinics where they could be treated.
The US Department of State said that 19 helicopters had been sent to Pakistan to help flood relief efforts.
Ward said that it was probably necessary for the helicopters to help the medics transport people to clinics.
He also said that the US government had set up radio and text-messaging networks, to help people in far-flung places get treatment, and to send them important information.
The United States also plans to help rebuild fallen structures, by donating building materials.
Ward said the rebuilding efforts would not happen until the rain had stopped, however.
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