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Zambia began administering oral cholera vaccines in response to a nationwide outbreak that has claimed more than 360 lives and has infected at least 9,500 people since October, Africanews reported Wednesday.
Earlier this week, the government received the first batch of 1.4 million oral cholera vaccines and began distributing doses in the Matero township, a heavily impacted area that is part of the country’s capital, Lusaka.
Cholera outbreaks in Zambia typically coincide with the rainy summer season which causes flooding and water contamination. Insufficient waste-water management systems and a shortage of clean drinking water access in various areas of the capital have also contributed to the spread of the disease.
Health authorities noted that nearly a third of the death toll is comprised of children under the age of five.
The outbreak also prompted the government to impose a series of measures to combat the waterborne disease, including postponing the reopening of schools, which were meant to start on Jan. 8.
Officials have also ordered churches across the country to restrict attendance to a maximum of two hours, while urging worshippers to avoid making physical contact, such as giving hugs and handshakes, the news outlet reported separately.
Even so, the National Health Institute’s director general, Roma Chilengi, believes the epidemic may have peaked, noting a consistent decrease in daily cases over the past few days.