The World Health Organization, or WHO, reported that cholera affects between 1.4 to 4.3 million people world wide causing an alarming rate of deaths per year estimated between 28,000 to 142,000 people. Known for breakouts in regions where there is excessive overcrowding, poor water sources, abundant trash, and unsanitary toilets, cholera can cause profuse diarrhea and vomiting which could even lead to death by severe dehydration within a matter of hours.
What is Cholera
Cholera is a bacteria, specifically vibrio cholerae, that targets and infects ones intestines. The bacterium produces large amounts of fluid in the cells lining the intestine resulting in extreme diarrhea and vomiting. Cholera spreads when another person ingests food or water contaminated with the vomit or feces of someone carrying the disease. In addition, if contaminated food or water is distributed as supplies, massive outbreaks can cause an overcrowded slum or refugee camp to be riddled with this fast moving infection within hours.
Treating the cholera infection can be countered fairly easy by replacing the fluids and salts the body looses during the bouts of diarrhea and vomiting. However, if the patient does not have access to clean water, then ingesting tainted water only adds to the severity of the infection, many times leading to death. For a treated patient with proper medical access, less than 1% of patients die from cholera.
Uganda on the Defense
With a brand new outbreak being reported just last month on April 5, 2016, many communities in the country are demanding action to fight back against the on-going battle of Cholera in Uganda. The Monitor newspaper covered the story of the eastern province outbreak, and confirmed at the time at least 1 person had died from the disease, while more than 25 people in total were hospitalized and being treated.
Heavy Rains are causing the region to become fearful that this recent outbreak is only the beginning of a larger problem for the upcoming months. The Executive Director Uganda National Health Consumers’ Organisation (UNHCO)-Robinah Kaitiritimba calls on local leaders to increase community vigilance as heavy rains commence stating, “There is need for increased vigilance now that the rainy season has started.”
As the government works towards preparing for this year’s rainy season, their focus will continue to be on areas without water, proper sanitation, hygiene, and health interventions in regions at the highest risk. The leaders of Uganda are determined to focus on the underlying causes including water-and-sanitation-related disease, follow up cases and reports of deaths.
With the rainy season upon us, and El Nino being attributed to higher than usual rain counts, the people of Uganda have to work together to ensure that this disease does not go unchecked. Cholera is still considered a world wide threat by the WHO, and without a combined effort of training, resources, and medical attention from both the community and local government, Uganda may be in for a long ride this monsoon season.