GENEVA, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday of possible spread of existing diseases in Sierra Leone after last week's mudslides had caused some 500 deaths.
With damage to water and sanitation facilities, residents of affected areas in the West African country are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of pre-existing infectious diseases, including malaria and diarrheal conditions such as typhoid and cholera, the WHO warned.
The most recent cholera outbreak in the country occurred in 2012.
"The mudslides have caused extreme suffering and loss of life, and we must do all we can to protect the population from additional health risks," said Alexander Chimbaru, officer in charge of WHO Sierra Leone.
The WHO is currently working with health authorities in the country to maximize efforts to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks.
Cholera response kits, including rapid testing tools, are being distributed to areas at risk; health and community workers are being trained to recognize the signs of priority diseases, and the WHO is sending additional cholera and emergency kits to the country, it said.
The UN health agency is also urging the local population to take precautions such as hand washing, drinking only properly boiled or treated water, using latrines for sanitation, and adhering to good food hygiene practices.
Around 500 people are known to have died as a result of the flooding and mudslides that devastated whole communities in and around Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, and hundreds more are still missing.