RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia confirmed one cholera infection and three other suspected cases in an area bordering Yemen, where an epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people, state TV reported on Sunday, citing a health ministry official.
The report said the patients, identified only as non-Saudis, were receiving care at al-Mauwassem General Hospital in Jizan, about 1,000 km (620 miles) southwest of the capital, Riyadh.
It was unclear if the outbreak was linked to Yemen or to last month’s Muslim haj pilgrimage, which draws some 2 million foreigners each year, raising the risk of the spread of infectious disease.
The incubation period for cholera, which spreads through ingestion of fecal matter and causes acute watery diarrhea, is a matter of hours. Once symptoms start, it can kill within hours if the patient does not receive treatment.
The United Nations has blamed warring sides in Yemen’s three-year-old civil war and their international allies, including Saudi Arabia, for fuelling the cholera outbreak there.
The WHO has rolled out an emergency treatment program, based on the vestiges of Yemen’s shattered health system, to try to catch new cases early and stop the explosive spread of the disease.
Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabeeah said last month that the haj had passed without any outbreak of disease.
Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Peter Cooney