Fighting Cholera with One Hand While Helping It with the Other

2011-07-15 | |
Last updated: 2011-07-15

What is Cholera?

Cholera is a waterborne bacterial disease that causes diarrhea in roughly a quarter of those infected. Roughly 5% of people infected develop severe Cholera symptoms. Because of the diarrhea, the disease can lead to rapid dehydration and shock that can kill a person within hours if untreated.

Under normal circumstances, however, the condition is highly treatable. Usually, treatment will only fail in those who are already weakened by another condition or who have received treatment too late. Generally, children and the elderly are at the highest risk.

While treatable, the condition is also preventable. Of course good sanitation can prevent outbreaks, but as well, cholera vaccines have been available for a while and new variations are being developed. The biggest problem with cholera vaccinations, at present, is the short duration of immunity that they offer, only a few years.

The condition is primarily spread through water that has been contaminated by the bacteria Vibrio Cholerae. It can also be spread through food that has been contaminated.

Worldwide, there are as many as 5 million cases of Cholera each year that take the lives of as many as 120,000 people.

How Fast are Cholera Rates Increasing?

Getting an exact idea as to the number of people affected by Cholera is a difficult task. In many cases, the medical staff who are treating patients perform no tests to identify the exact cause of the diarrhea. They simply do their best to treat the symptoms. As a result, the World Health organization (WHO) only believes that about 5 to 7% of cases are reported. As a result, the best estimate as to changing rates of Cholera infection comes from the number of cases reported to the WHO.

If we assume that this reporting rate is linked to the actual number of cases, then the rates of Cholera infection are increasing dramatically. According to the WHO, between 2004 and 2008, reported Cholera rates were 24% higher than between 2000 and 2004. From 2008 to 2009 alone, the number of Cholera cases increased by 16%. Such increases have not always been the norm, however. Before 2000, rates were actually declining rapidly. Unfortunately, in the last decade, previous gains have been lost.

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Category: Disease Information, Disease Prevention, Health Risks

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