Virulent Form of Hepatitis
E In Iraq's Drinking Water

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
Hello Jeff - The health situation, or should I say lack of health, in Iraq is critical. People are developing cancers as well as birth defects of newborns due to depleted uranium. The weapons and the military hardware containing depleated uranium are a danger, not only to Iraqis, but also to people in the US. Depleated Uranium products used in Iraq are made here in the US. People live near the factories and DU products are trucked and railed across the US. Polution from the factors can seep into water tables and pollute the air.
Iraq has no safe water in the entire country. Sewage treatment plants are not on line and the water contains viruses and bacteria. Part of the problem is the fact that Iraq still does not have uninterrupted electricity. With all of the billions of dollars going to rebuild Iraq, and with all of the PR we hear from the Bush administration about a post war Iraq, we have a nation that presents major health risks for people.
International Herald Tribune online
By James Glanz
NY Times
A virulent form of hepatitis that is especially lethal for pregnant women
has broken out in 2 of Iraq's most troubled districts, Iraqi Health Ministry officials said in interviews here this week, and they warned that a collapse of water and sewage systems in the country is probably at the root of the illnesses.
The disease, called hepatitis E, is caused by a virus that is often spread by sewage-contaminated drinking water. The officials said that their limited ability to test for the virus had already been overwhelmed by the hepatitis outbreaks, suggesting that only a fraction of the actual cases have been diagnosed. But in Sadr City, a Baghdad slum that for months has been convulsed by gun battles between a local militia and American troops, as many as 155 cases have turned up.
The 2nd outbreak is in Mahmudiya, a town 56 km (35 miles) south of Baghdad that is known as much for its kidnappings and drive-by shootings as for its poverty, where 60 suspected cases have been seen. At least 9 pregnant women are believed to have been infected, and one has died. There have been 5 reported deaths overall. "We are saying that the real number is greatly more than this, because the area is greatly underreported," said Dr. Atta-alla Mekhlif al-Salmani, head of the viral hepatitis section at the Health Ministry's Center for Disease Control.
The World Health Organization is rushing hepatitis E testing kits, water purification tablets, informational brochures and other materials to Iraq to help with the outbreaks, said Dr Naeema al-Gasseer, the health agency representative for Iraq and a UN health official, who is now based in Amman, Jordan.
But viral hepatitis comes in numerous forms, and another ominous set of statistics suggests that the quality of water supplies around the country has deteriorated since the American-led invasion last year, Salmani said. In 2003, there were 70 per cent more cases of hepatitis of all types reported across Iraq than in the year before, he said. During the first 6 months of 2004, there were as many cases as in all of 2002.
In yet another indication of the deteriorating safety of both water and food in Iraq, the number of reported cases of typhoid fever is up sharply this year, said Dr Nima S Abid, the ministry's director general of public health and primary health. Hospitals across the country are also full of children with severe forms of diarrhea, Abid said.
The immediate reason for the outbreaks in Sadr City and Mahmudiya appear to be easy to pin down, Abid said. The lack of infrastructure induces families to tap into water mains with improvised hoses, he said, citing his own visits to the communities. They then use small electric pumps to bring water into their homes. But in these same communities, sewage either seeps from damaged pipes into the ground or runs freely in the streets. So, through cracks and holes in people's hoses, sewage is sucked in too, becoming mixed with the drinking water and spreading the virus. "The problem is that there is a leakage in the sewer system of Sadr," said an assistant to the director general for water in the Baghdad municipality. "Our treatment plant produces water with WHO specifications," said the assistant, who asked to be identified only as Khalid, "and our test records are very good." The assistant said that there had been a major water project under way for Sadr City, but that the dangerous security situation had made it impossible to proceed.
George A Robertson, PhD
Vice President Science & Technology
An International Association for Pharmaceutical and Biopharmaceutical
Science and Technology
3 Bethesda Metro Center, Suite 1500
Bethesda, MD 20814 USA
[The viruses responsible for hepatitis A and hepatitis E are structurally similar, but phylogenetically distinct, enteric viruses transmitted by similar routes. An effective vaccine is available for control of hepatitis A virus infection, but there is no vaccine for control of hepatitis E. Although both viruses are relatively heat resistant, boiling of drinking water would provide a first line of defence against the spread of infection. - Mod.CP]
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
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Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
Go with God and in Good Health



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