What is Cholera?

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Cholera is a bacterial disease that is caused by consuming food or water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae. During the 19th century, cholera spread across the world from its original reservoir in the Ganges delta in India. Six subsequent pandemics killed millions of people across all continents. The current (seventh) pandemic started in South Asia in 1961, and reached Africa in 1971 and the Americas in 1991. Cholera is now endemic in many countries.

An estimated 2.9 million cases and 95,000 deaths occur each year around the world. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe. Approximately one in ten infected persons will have severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these people, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water. The disease is not likely to spread directly from one person to another; therefore, casual contact with an infected person is not a risk for becoming ill.

Where is it found?

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The cholera bacterium is usually found in water or food sources that have been contaminated by feces from a person infected with cholera. Cholera is most likely to be found and spread in places with inadequate water treatment, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene. The cholera bacterium may also live in the environment in brackish rivers and coastal waters. Currently, 41 countries have cholera.

Outbreak Regions by Date

 

Why are we focusing on cholera?

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Cholera can be simply and successfully treated by immediate replacement of the fluid and salts lost through diarrhea. Patients can be treated with oral rehydration solution (ORS), a prepackaged mixture of sugar and salts to be mixed with water and drunk in large amounts. This solution is used throughout the world to treat diarrhea. Severe cases also require intravenous fluid replacement. With prompt appropriate rehydration, fewer than 1% of cholera patients die.

In October 2017, GTFCC partners launched a strategy for cholera control Ending Cholera: A roadmap to 2030. The country led strategy aims to reduce cholera deaths by 90% and to eliminate cholera in as many as 20 countries by 2030. Together, we can meet this ambitious goal by addressing the following:

1) Prevention & Control
2) Surveillance Systems
3) Water & Sanitation Interventions
4) Treatment
5) Hygiene Promotion and Social Mobilization

Community engagement is key to long term changes in behavior and to the control of cholera.