A cholera outbreak in Iraq has spread to neighboring Syria, Kuwait and Bahrain, and risks turning into a region-wide epidemic as millions of pilgrims prepare to visit the country, UNICEF’s Iraq director said.

The disease, which can lead to death by dehydration and kidney failure within hours if left untreated, was detected west of Baghdad in September and has since infected at least 2,200 people in Iraq and has killed six.

“It (the outbreak) already has a regional dynamic and the risk of that can only be increased by people from all over the region coming into Iraq,” UNICEF country director, Peter Hawkins, said on Thursday. “Kuwait, Bahrain and Syria have already had confirmed cases.”

Millions of Shi’ite Muslims are due to visit Iraq in December for Arbaeen, a religious ritual marking the end of an annual mourning period for the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Hussein, whose death in 680 AD entrenched the schism between Shi’ites and Sunnis.

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