Johannesburg - The number of cholera cases among survivors of a devastating cyclone in central Mozambique has jumped to 139, officials said, as nearly 1 million vaccine doses are rushed to the region.
The Portuguese news agency Lusa reported the number late Thursday, citing national health official Ussein Isse, who had declared the outbreak a day earlier with just five confirmed cases.
Cholera is a major concern for hundreds of thousands of survivors now living in squalid conditions in camps, schools and sodden homes. The disease is spread by contaminated food and water, causes acute diarrhoea and can kill within hours if not treated with oral rehydration solution or intravenous fluids in severe cases.
The World Health Organization has warned of a "second disaster" if waterborne diseases like cholera spread. On Tuesday it said 900,000 oral cholera vaccines were on their way.
"You can imagine how much we are sitting on a water and sanitation ticking time bomb," the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Elhadj As Sy, told The Associated Press last week after visiting a school where 3,000 survivors were sheltering with only six toilets between them.