Zambia battles cholera as BRE calls for measures to prevent it spreading to Barotseland

06 January 2018
Author 
[L-R] Ngambela Nyambe Mwenda, Cholera treatment center in Lusaka, Zambia

 

Zambia is currently grappling with the worst cholera epidemic in recent years, if not ever, that has spread across the country beyond the usually susceptible unplanned slums of the large metropolitan capital, Lusaka, with the military deployed to combat the diarrheal disease which has already claimed several hundreds of its victims out of the more than two thousand cases recorded so far in Lusaka since October, 2017.

And the Barotse Royal establishment, BRE, has called on the Zambian government to institute measures that will stop the spread of the epidemic to Barotseland. The BRE, through its Ngambela, Nyambe Mwenda, has told the Zambian government that mechanisms such as putting a checkpoint at Mumbwa junction to screen everyone traveling to Barotseland should be immediately considered.

The Ngambela made his appeal in Lusaka yesterday where he was scheduled to meet Barotse communities to help prepare for Barotseland’s annual Kuomboka festival.

Barotseland has never ever experienced cholera from its known past, but now faces a real threat of the disease as many young Barotse travel to Zambia’s capital to sell artifacts and other merchandise at Lusaka’s Buseko open market located in the densely populated Kanyama sub-district, one of the worst cholera hit slums of Lusaka, with virtually non-existent water and sanitation infrastructure.

Meanwhile, to mitigate the spread of cholera, the government has deployed the military to spearhead cleanup activities that have included the banning of street vending and closure of all popular public activities such as social and political gatherings, including trading in public open markets.

The measures have also included the closure of places of common religious worship, suspension of the school calendar at all levels of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education, from the traditional January to possibly February, 2018.

Popular food parlors and open vending of various agricultural food products such as fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, and pork have also been closed across the capital, the national epicenter of the epidemic.

Other measures announced by the Zambian Health Ministry will include the possible oral vaccination of reportedly four million citizens in affected areas of Lusaka if logistical support permits it.

Citizens of both Zambia and Barotseland are further urged to maintain high standards of personal hygiene and food safety practices as cholera is a preventable acute diarrheal disease that thrives in unsanitary conditions.

WHO: CHOLERA KEY FACT SHEETS

Key facts as compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated.
  • Researchers have estimated that each year there are 1.3 million to 4.0 million cases of cholera, and 21 000 to 143 000 deaths worldwide due to cholera.
  • Most of those infected will have no or mild symptoms and can be successfully treated with oral rehydration solution.
  • Severe cases will need rapid treatment with intravenous fluids and antibiotics.
  • Provision of safe water and sanitation is critical to control the transmission of cholera and other waterborne diseases.
  • Safe oral cholera vaccines should be used in conjunction with improvements in water and sanitation to control cholera outbreaks and for prevention in areas known to be high risk for cholera.
  • A global strategy on cholera control with a target to reduce cholera deaths by 90% was launched in 2017.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Cholera remains a global threat to public health and an indicator of inequity and lack of social development. Researchers have estimated that every year, there are roughly 1.3 to 4.0 million cases, and 21 000 to 143 000 deaths worldwide due to cholera.

SYMPTOMS

Cholera is an extremely virulent disease that can cause severe acute watery diarrhea. It takes between 12 hours and 5 days for a person to show symptoms after ingesting contaminated food or water. Cholera affects both children and adults and can kill within hours if untreated.

Most people infected with cholerae do not develop any symptoms, although the bacteria are present in their faeces for 1-10 days after infection and are shed back into the environment, potentially infecting other people.
Among people who develop symptoms, the majority have mild or moderate symptoms, while a minority develops acute watery diarrhea with severe dehydration.

This can lead to death if left untreated. More at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs107/en/

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