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CHOLERA: WORRIES OVER TROUBLED WATER

20-Feb-2015.By: By ENIFOME Emmanuel

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Ever since its first outburst in India, cholera has been a disease claiming lives of individuals all over the globe, WHO says, that millions of lives are affected yearly and 100,000 – 120,000 deaths are recorded. In Nigeria, where there have been a recent outbreak, its high mortality rate can be seen by the number of States recording deaths.

For over four decades cholera has been a prevalent disease in Nigeria, and has continued to claim lives of individuals, especially children. The major cause of this deadly epidemic is the negligence of the importance of a healthy environment and the unavailability of clean water.

Cholera is a waterborne disease, caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae that attacks the small intestine. It is transmitted into the body due to contaminated food and water. It has a short incubation period, from less than one day to five days, and produces an enterotoxin that causes a copious, painless, watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.

In developed countries, it is primarily transmitted through food, while in under=-developed countries, its main form of transmission is by poor water conditions, and unhygienic environment. This disease is much more evident in the underdeveloped countries because of low health standards, as developed countries have improved healthcare, more hygienic environment and access to advanced treated water system.

The symptoms of cholera include vomiting, and diarrhoea, in some cases, severe diarrhoea may occur, and when left untreated can result in life-threatening dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances. Diarrhoea which is sometimes called rice water may occur severally in a day.

The fatality rate of this disease is so high that it can kill within hours if left untreated. Ironically, it is a very easily treatable disease. Cholera dehydrates the body and can be treated immediately by the administering of Oral Rehydrated Salts (ORS), which helps in rehydration. About 80% of the cases of cholera can be treated with ORS and on only rare occasions, will a patient be required to use intravenous fluid and antibiotic.

Due to the fact that cholera is a disease that can easily spread if not contained, it is essential to take effective measures against contacting or spreading the disease.

In Nigeria, and around Africa, lack of proper sanitation and clean water, pit toilets, mounds of uncollected garbage and storm drains blocked by garbage, slums are among factors that contribute to health threats.

Therefore, maintaining clean drinkable water and a healthy environment is key to preventing Cholera. If sanitization practices are carried out on time and frequently, it is usually effective enough to stop an epidemic.

Poor hygiene within homes and public places are likely to easily breed cholera, and create an avenue for an outbreak, especially when refuge are not disposed promptly and appropriately. In some places, the refuge bins are left inside or near homes, with refuges stored in them for weeks. Sometimes, there are cases where individuals will use their bare hands to dispose and touch this dumped refuse and may sometimes forget to wash their hands. Regular washing of hands is still an uncommon habit in some parts of the semi-urban and rural communities of many African countries, including Nigeria.

Untreated and exposed water used in the home can give room for contamination. It is essential to also keep water tanks clean and sealed. Poorly preserved food is another factor. It is healthy to keep food properly preserved at all times.

In most poorly sanitized drainages, you will find lots of uncollected garbage littering surroundings and blocking the drainage system, some people usually have their shops and houses too close to these drainages, giving room for higher chance of infection.

Though it may be hard to believe, pit toilets still exist in some semi-urban and rural communities, where over six persons have to share the same poorly or never cleaned the toilet. Cholera is most likely to occur in such places, given that its major form of transmission is fecal-oral route.

There are places in the rural environment, where there are unavailability of clean pipe-borne water supply. Most people here rely on stream and rivers as their source of drinking water, which in some terrible cases also serve as a place to defecate, and for waste deposit.

Washing of hands regularly with soap, especially before meals will kill germs, and cut the disease by one-third percent, that if ingested can cause diseases like cholera. Cook, wash, and drink clean, treated water. Chlorination, filtering water with cloth and boiling are low priced and easy, effective means of stopping contamination.

The prevention of cholera is crucial to building a healthy home and society. In the case where an individual is already ill with cholera, it is advised to seek immediate medical care. Materials that have previously come in contact with infected patients should be sterilized with hot water before use to avoid it spread of the disease.

As the saying goes, Knowledge is power, so be aware, Health education on sanitisation will teach more prevention technique, help individuals learn the risk and dangers of cholera and reduce the fatality rate or recurrence. Health education can also help an individual make an informed decision on the safety of clean food and water.

The outbreak of cholera will always mean the failure of man to maintain hygiene and a sanitized environment. 


Last Updated: 13-Jul-2017 10:09 AM

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