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Amid spike in cholera cases, Kenyan health chief warns of a second wave

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A teacher approaches a girl who was suspected of cholera in Kenya’s northern city of Garissa on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. A girl died of suspected cholera and hundreds more were feared infected after they spent the night trapped in an outdoor recreation area in Garissa. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Health Minister Sicily Kariuki warned on Friday that Kenya would face a new wave of severe cases of cholera due to poor sanitation and the rainy season, a warning that also heightened concerns that the outbreak that was exacerbated by the Israeli Embassy closure for suspected malpractice may take hold.

“We expect a second wave as our slums have not been cleaned in the past two years,” Kariuki said in a briefing with journalists, adding that water towers in the slums, where many of the poor live, were still not working as the weather finally turned wet.

“We have to be careful. We have to also tell people to wear protective gloves and avoid touching the water to wash their bodies. We must also avoid eating and drinking contaminated food and drinking water,” she said.

Kenya has recorded 2,788 cases of cholera since the outbreak, with 1,622 reported since Sept. 15, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

In July, the government closed the embassy, accusing some diplomats of conducting medical experiments on Kenyan patients. Israel denies any wrongdoing.

About 1,000 people have been hospitalised. One child died.

Roughly 1,000 cases are expected in the next four weeks, when rains are expected to start. The rains have already caused flooding in some parts of the country. “The situation is grave,” Kariuki said.

Cholera is a severe diarrheal infection that can cause severe dehydration and death, though the fatality rate is usually under 2 percent. Cholera cases usually occur after heavy rains, when people have contaminated water.

About 800,000 people died in cholera outbreaks around the world last year.

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