BEIRUT — MP Abdul Rahman Bizri (Independent/Saida) revealed Monday that the number of cholera cases in Lebanon has risen to "about 50."
The MP told the Voice of Lebanon radio station that "a meeting will be held today to monitor the new cases," indicating that the cholera cases "are not limited to Syrian refugees only, but include Lebanese."
Lebanon’s first cholera outbreak in nearly three decades has spread in rural areas in the north of the country, raising concerns about the possibility of the disease reaching more people or, at worst, overwhelming the public health system. Lebanon recorded so far two cholera deaths and 46 confirmed cases. These cases remained clustered in the governorates of Akkar and Baalbeck-Hermel.
Bizri reassured that "there is no fear of transmission of infection via surfaces," stressing "the necessity of securing usable water and maintaining infrastructure to prevent the spread of the disease and reaching dangerous stages."
The MP also expressed concern over the risk of the disease spreading in schools, "especially public ones, with the absence of sufficient quantities of sterilizers." He called on parents "to guide their children and instruct them to avoid food sharing.”
Regarding cholera vaccines, Bizri explained, during his Monday interview, that "their production does not meet the market needs, and that the Lebanese government is seeking to obtain them in the event the epidemic spreads."
In a report published Monday, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said that part of its cholera response task force's mission in Lebanon will include procuring and distributing "bleach, hand sanitizer, liquid soap, and water purification tablets for 1,731 public schools (primary 1st and 2nd shift), secondary schools, and Technical and Vocational Educational training (TVET) [institutions] as well as 361 private free schools."
UNICEF also added that since Oct. 8, the organization "has distributed 80,000 liters of fuel to water pumping stations and wastewater treatment stations in locations with confirmed and suspected cholera cases; procured emergency medical supplies to treat cholera — including 150,000 Oral Rehydration Salts and 50 Cholera Treatment Kits," which "will support treatment of 5,000 cholera cases and symptoms including moderate to severe diarrhea, and "trained 900 frontline workers and partners on cholera awareness including transmission, symptoms, treatment, prevention, FAQs, and referral mechanisms."
According to the most recent World Health Organization count, the cases in Lebanon come after more than 13,000 reported cholera cases and 60 deaths in neighboring Syria since August. According to experts on the country’s water infrastructure, Lebanon’s general household water supply is at a lower risk than contaminated fruits and vegetables, and there are safeguards in place that reduce the chances of contamination of the residential water supply.
An earlier version of this article stated that the total number of cholera deaths recorded so far amounted to one, while the number is now at two.