By Tolulope Ojo
Apart from the recent outbreak of cholera in Nigeria that killed three in Lagos and some others in Zamfara, at least 352 people have been killed by this infection in a space of three months and more than 6,400 case reported majorly in the North. Doctors are now monitoring outbreaks in 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Nigeria had the first series of cholera outbreak between 1970- 1990. Despite this long experience with cholera, an understanding of the epidemiology of the disease aiding its persistence in outbreak situations is still lacking; we therefore hope that this review provides the knowledge gaps of the infection with the hope that it will help to develop targeted approaches to controlling the infection.
Developed countries have an almost zero incidence of cholera because they have widespread water treatment plants, food-preparation facilities that usually practice sanitation protocols, and most people have access to toilets and hand-washing facilities. A lot of responsibilities in curbing this epidemic lie with the government, but cholera is not a governmental disease in fact it is killing more of the average citizens of Nigeria. As Nigerians, we should contribute our own quota to battling and finally subduing cholera. Individuals can prevent or reduce their chances of contacting cholera by thorough hand washing, drinking treated water and eating clean and well prepared food.
Cholera is an acute infectious disease caused by a bacterium, Vibrio cholerae (V. cholerae) which results in painless diarrhea (the main symptoms are watery stool and vomiting). Most people who contact this disease get it primarily from drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated by the faeces (waste product) of an infected person, including one with no apparent symptoms.
Ways to prevent cholera: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 15 seconds especially before handling food and after using the toilet. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water are not readily available.
Drink and cook with safe water that has been boiled and disinfected. It is ideal that you clean the mouth of the bottle before opening them when drinking bottled water.
Avoid eating raw food, take food that is completely cooked and hot, avoid improperly cooked seafood or meat. If you have to buy food from a street vendor, make sure that the food is cooked in a clean environment and served hot.
Consume fruits and vegetables that are peeled by you such as oranges, bananas and avocados. Properly wash foods that do not have to be peeled such as apples, berries and grapes.
Avoid dairy products like ice cream as they may be made from unpasteurized milk.
Treat infected sewage facilities and drainage systems.
Dispose infected materials properly.
Most importantly, it is necessary to introduce intervention measures that address the root problems of poor sanitation and unsafe water supplies in order to fully solve the problem of cholera. U.N. figures indicate that half of Nigeria’s 160 million population do not have safe water and a third do not have proper sanitation.
Cholera affects both children and adults and it manifests symptoms such as:
Vomiting of clear fluids
Rapid heart rate
Loss of skin elasticity
Low blood pressure
Dry mucous membrane
Restlessness and Irritability (especially in children)
Tiredness and dizziness
Severe dehydration which if left untreated can rapidly lead to acute renal failure, severe electrolyte imbalance, shock and death.
Although symptoms may be mild, approximately 5%-10% of previously healthy people will develop copious diarrhea within about one to five days after ingesting the bacteria. It is important that one receives immediate medical treatment because cholera can cause death within just a few hours.
Other treatment options for cholera include:
Rehydration: This will replace the fluids that are lost through diarrhea to restore the electrolyte balance. Oral rehydration salts or ORS can be mixed with warm water to rehydrate the body.
Intravenous fluids: Severe dehydration may require the administration of intravenous fluids.
Antibiotics: This is not a necessary form of treatment; however, this may reduce the frequency of diarrhea.
Zinc supplements: According to research, zinc may shorten the duration and decrease diarrhea in young children.
These treatment measures are majorly first aid. Patients should be taken to the hospital or health center for proper and adequate medical attention.
Above all, the World health Organization (WHO) recommends that immunization with currently available cholera vaccines be used in conjunction with the usually recommended control measures in cholera endemic areas as well as areas of risk outbreak.
Remember proper sanitation and drinking of clean and boiled water prevents cholera infection.