Zambia has recorded the latest outbreak of the disease in October. Burundi and Rwanda have suffered outbreaks but no deaths have been recorded. Unicef and local governments are carrying out an epidemiological study on cholera hotspots and basins to gain thorough information to address the crisis.
‘In the past 2 weeks, 8 out of the 21 countries in East and Southern African Region have reported active transmission of cholera.’
Cholera - What is it?
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine and is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It is characterized by sudden onset of profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting.
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine and is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Vibrio cholerae produces a toxin called 'enterotoxin' which causes the symptoms of cholera.
A type of cholera bacteria called El Tor biotype tends to cause milder disease than the classic biotype.
In more than 90% of affected people, the illness is of mild or moderate severity and is difficult to distinguish clinically from other forms of diarrheal diseases. Less than 10% of infected persons develop typical cholera with signs of moderate or severe dehydration that can sometimes lead to death. The mortality rate without treatment is between 25% and 50%.
Cholera is endemic in India and Southeast Asia. Cholera outbreaks can occur sporadically in any part of the world where water supplies, sanitation, food safety and hygiene practices are inadequate.
Cholera is most frequently transmitted by food and water sources contaminated with the causative bacterium Vibrio cholerae.
Cholera is diagnosed by patient history and stool examination. The main treatment for cholera is fluid and electrolyte replacement either orally or intravenously. In severe cases, an effective antibiotic treatment can reduce the volume and duration of diarrhea and the period of Vibrio cholerae excretion.
Cholera infection can be prevented in a community by:
- Sanitary disposal of faeces
- Hand washing after defecation
- Pure drinking water
- Uncontaminated food supply (particularly seafood and vegetables).
- Sanitary preparation of food in commercial establishments and homes.
- Cleanliness are the most effective ways of preventing and controlling outbreaks.