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You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>Dr. G. Stanley O’koye>>Cholera Outbreak in W. Africa
Sunday, 05 September 2010 02:33

Cholera Outbreak in W. Africa

Written by Dr. G. Stanley Okoye
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Deaths Reported In Nigeria and Cameroon

Most of Africa is experiencing heavy rainfall and instead of greeting the rains with happiness, many people in Cameroon, Nigeria and the northern Nigerian states of Bauchi and Borno are fighting for their lives as they face the perils of a severe cholera outbreak.

Cholera is a contagious water-borne infection that is easily and quickly transmitted through dirty, contaminated water and food, which is cooked in unhygienic conditions, using such unclean water. Even though the disease can be prevented through proper sanitation and fresh supply of clean drinking water, this is not the case.

Every year, during the monsoons, there is a surge in cholera cases in Nigeria. One of the main reasons for its spread is heavy rainfall leading to an overflow of dirty water into wells and ponds which serve as the main source of water supply in the village areas.

Cholera is caused by the Vibro cholera bacteria usually spread through contaminated water. Although contaminated water is the primary means of spread of cholera infection, raw shellfish, uncooked fruits and vegetables, and other foods can also harbor cholera bacteria. The cholera bacteria can remain dormant in the water for a prolonged period, especially in the public wells found commonly in the third world countries, and are responsible for the large-scale cholera outbreaks.

The use of modern sewage systems and treatment has almost eradicated cholera in the developed countries. For example, the last outbreak of cholera in the United States was in 1911. However, cholera outbreaks continue to remain an epidemic in many underdeveloped countries including sub-Saharan Africa, India, Latin-America, Asia, and Middle East. These outbreaks are common in communities without adequate sanitation and crowded living.

The most common symptoms of cholera include diarrhea and vomiting, leading to dehydration. Urgent medical attention is needed in people suffering from cholera. If treatment is not started on time, it can even lead to death. Cholera can be easily treated, and death prevented with simple and inexpensive rehydration solution.

The main goal of treatment is the replacement of fluids and electrolytes lost through diarrhea and shorten the time of diarrhea and vomiting. The Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) has been formulated with the optimal water, salts and sugar content to meet part of this objective. If not adequately rehydrated close to fifty percent of the people with cholera will die. In severely dehydrated, intravenous rehydration would likely be needed.

In addition, studies have demonstrated that a single dose of azithromycin (a form of erythromycin antibiotics) given to adults or children with severe cholera can significantly reduce the symptoms and duration of diarrhea and vomiting. Also, oral zinc supplement has been demonstrated to reduce the duration of the diarrhea in children suffering from cholera. Overall, with adequate treatment, the morality or death from cholera is almost none existent.

Formal announcements have been made regarding the seriousness of cholera spread this year. It has been estimated that more than 1,300 people have been infected with this dangerous disease in Nigeria alone. In Cameroon, the estimate goes up to almost 2,000 cases with a couple of hundred deaths.

The healthcare sector in Nigeria and Africa are taking necessary steps to make drugs accessible to those infected. Moreover, campaigns are being run to sensitize the general public on what they can do to protect themselves and curb the spread of cholera and other water-borne diseases.

G. Stanley Okoye, M.D., Ph.D. , Chief Medical Correspondent, Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) and St. Jude Medical Missions ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).




Last modified on Sunday, 05 September 2010 02:44

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