21 September 2007The cholera outbreak in northern Iraq has spread south to the capital Baghdad and more than 1,500 cases have now been confirmed across the country, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today. The cholera outbreak in northern Iraq has spread south to the capital Baghdad and more than 1,500 cases have now been confirmed across the country, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today.UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York that Baghdad recorded its first confirmed case of the disease two days ago.Iraqi health officials had warned in recent days that the continuous movement of people and cargo, bad sanitary conditions and high temperatures increased the possibility that the disease would spread rapidly to other areas such as Baghdad and the central provinces.Northern Iraq has been plagued by cholera cases since last month, when the first cases were reported in Kirkuk province. It remains unclear what caused the initial outbreak although polluted water and cracked water pipes contaminated by sewage may be to blame.Nearly 30,000 cases of diarrhoea have been confirmed so far in the north, Ms. Montas said, and WHO is reporting 10 deaths in the Sulaymaniyah area.Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It causes watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given. About 80 to 90 per cent of cases are mild or moderate and are difficult to distinguish clinically from other types of acute diarrhoea.