The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Hepatitis outbreaks in Iraq

Sep 27, 2004

An outbreak of a dangerous form of hepatitis has been reported in two areas of Iraq.

In Baghdad, 155 cases of hepatitis E have been reported in the past two months. In Mahmudiya, 35 miles south of Baghdad, 60 new cases were reported just last week. Hepatitis E is especially dangerous for pregnant women. So far, nine pregnant women have been diagnosed with the disease; one has died.

Since health officials have only enough equipment to test a very limited number of all the people showing symptoms of the disease, they are saying that these numbers are only a very small fraction of the actual cases that exist in the country.

Hepatitis E, which is caused by a virus, is usually spread by sewage-contaminated drinking water. Water and sewage treatment systems have collapsed all across the country – stemming from over a decade of U.S. bombing and sanctions after the first Gulf War – made much worse by repeated attacks by U.S. bombers since the current war began.

The reported cases of typhoid fever, which is also spread through contaminated drinking water, are also up sharply this year.

Hepatitis E could be easily treated – IF the proper medications were made available, the proper facilities were built, and the proper equipment supplied. But the U.S. did not go to war to improve medical care for the Iraqi people or the country's infrastructure. U.S. money has been spent on weapons of destruction and on protecting the oil wells there.

With poverty increasing by leaps and bounds in Iraq, with even basic services disappearing altogether, words about democracy not only ring hollow – they are vilely cynical.