A vaccine that is used to prevent travellers from cholera, which characterized by diarrhoea and severe dehydration, may also be used to prevent people living in cholera-prone areas, say researchers.
Published in PLoS Medicine, Ira Longini's study lends support to the idea that public-health officials should consider mass vaccination in their efforts to control endemic cholera.
The researchers used a mathematical model for cholera transmission, based on information from the Matlab region of Bangladesh, in their study.
They found that cholera outbreaks could be controlled by vaccinating as few as half of the population in an affected region.
According to them, vaccinating only 50 per cent of the population could reduce the number of cholera cases among unvaccinated people by 89 per cent, and among the entire population by 93 per cent.
The researchers said that the incidence of cholera could fall by three-quarters even if only a third of the population was vaccinated.
They reckoned that in areas where there was less natural immunity to cholera, 70 per cent of the population would probably require to be vaccinated to control the disease.
The best way to prevent cholera is to ensure that everyone has access to safe water and good sanitation, but these remain unavailable in many countries, and in situations of population displacement such as refugee camps and disasters such as floods.