Jordanian ministers forced to quit in scandal over parasite

By RORY KRESS, AP
July 30, 2007 22:50

Non-fatal, waterborne parasite sickened approximately 1,000 Jordanians 70km northeast of Amman.

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The outbreak of a non-fatal, waterborne parasite that sickened approximately 1,000 Jordanians 70km northeast of Amman will not affect the Israeli water supply, say Israeli officials. Uri Schor, a representative from the Israeli Water Authority, told The Jerusalem Post "We do not receive water from the North of Jordan," citing instead the Mountain Aquifer, the Sea of Galilee and the Coastal Aquifer as the primary sources of Israel's water. Schor allayed fears of the possibility of a similar problem locally by explaining that "our water system is much more sophisticated [than Jordan's]." Jordan's King Abdullah II accepted the resignations of two cabinet ministers on Sunday, days after the outbreak in northern Jordan near the town of Mafraq. The official Petra news agency said Abdullah, the ultimate authority in Jordan, issued a royal decree endorsing the resignations of Water Minister Mohammed Thafer al-Alem and Health Minister Saad al-Kharabsheh. Petra did not disclose the reason for the resignations. Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit told reporters that both ministers would soon be replaced, but that in the meantime their responsibilities would be divided among the remaining cabinet ministers. Adnan al-Zoubi, on behalf of the Jordanian Water Ministry, told the Post that the water in the affected Umlolo region is now clean, though many are still sick and some are still being treated by regional hospitals. "We are working to solve the problem," said al-Zoubi, describing investigations into the problem that found the local reservoir to be clean of the parasite, leading the research crew to believe that the water entered the drinking water after seepage from residential septic tanks. The Health Minister said many citizens were admitted to local hospitals suffering from fever and diarrhea, but that they had been discharged following brief treatment. The parasite in question is cryptosporidium. It is a microscopic single-celled parasite smaller than a red blood cell, which if swallowed can cause gastroenteritis and infects both humans and animals. The health minister said the July 20 outbreak was likely caused by a water pipe that became contaminated with animal dung.


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