Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cholera Chronicle: May 31, 2009

Welcome to the eFoodAlert Cholera Chronicle. Periodically, we'll present a summary by region of cholera news from around the world.

Cholera is spread through human fecal contamination of food and water supplies. It is a frequent Disease of Disaster, accompanying famines, floods, wars, and other natural- or man-made disasters. Its victims typically are destitute, displaced or debilitated. And, all too often, dead.

  • Kenya, May 27 – A cholera outbreak on the outskirts of Nairobi has prompted government officials to close 20 food outlets in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease. Fourteen cases have been reported so far in this most recent episode.
  • Swaziland, May 30 – Two 9-year old girls in the Lubombo region of Swaziland have been diagnosed with cholera and are undergoing treatment. Officials expressed themselves as surprised by the mini-outbreak, since the rainy season – when cholera is most likely to show its face – has passed.
  • Zimbabwe, May 26 – The Red Cross reports that the country's cholera epidemic has slowed, but not yet stopped. Infection rates, which have fallen from their February peak, remain at a shockingly high 4.5% of the population. Red Cross officials predict that the number of confirmed cases soon will surpass 100,000; already this year, 4,283 people have died as a result of the disease.

  • India, May 28 – A broken pipeline resulted in an outbreak of cholera and other diarrheal diseases in Kerala. Eight victims are thought to have contracted cholera. Four people have died in the district, but officials deny that their deaths are linked to the cholera outbreak.
  • Vietnam, May 24 – The cholera outbreak, which began in mid-April, has infected 56 Vietnamese people so far. Despite the government's efforts at containment, cholera cases have been reported in 16 cities and provinces. Vietnam's northern neighbor, China, has strengthened its border surveillance in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading into Yunnan Province.

Cholera can be treated successfully, if adequate medical facilities are available. More importantly, outbreaks can be prevented, by providing communities with safe drinking water, and with sanitary disposal facilities for human waste.

2008 was the International Year of Sanitation. The World Health Organization partnered with other agencies to promote improvements in sanitation in underdeveloped areas of the world. But it will take many years before these efforts make a significant dent in the problem.

Meanwhile, cholera will continue to follow in the wake of world disasters.

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