We still have cholera in our country

The water-borne disease is still a menace and it is not surprising that many people are dying in their homes from this treatable disease and are not recorded.

SCHOOLS have closed and people are preparing for the Easter holiday where Christians remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. More than 500 people have since lost their lives from cholera since the first index cases of February 12, 2023 in Chegutu.

The water-borne disease is still a menace and it is not surprising that many people are dying in their homes from this treatable disease and are not recorded.

The whole of southern Africa was hit by cholera with cases being reported in Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo to mention just a few.

Cholera is a bacterial disease that is caused by a gram-negative bacterium, Vibrio Cholerae. Two serogroups called O1 and O139 are responsible for cholera outbreaks.

When Vibrio Cholerae is ingested via contaminated water or food, it invades the intestinal mucosa which can cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting within few hours up to 5 days.

The dehydration which follows may be fulminant and can result in severe electrolyte imbalances, muscle cramps and even acute renal injury.

It should be understood that cholera syndromes range from asymptomatic to cholera gravis and usually less than 30% of patients present with notable symptoms.

Case fatality rate should remain less than 3% The government has issued a directive that all big gatherings should get police clearance as we head towards the Easter holiday.

Government reiterates that such gatherings should be supervised by health authorities, a directive which may appear bizarre in the eyes of the general population but is very critical for public health.

It is a pity that we have many congregants gathered on open spaces which include airport grounds, school grounds, bushes, football pitches where there is neither running water nor sanitation facilities.

How do such churches dispose of their waste? What if there is one congregant with Vibrio Cholerae, the bacteria that cause cholera?

One can harbour cholera bacteria for many days while shedding in the stool for more than seven days possibly infecting many people.

Running water should be a must and it is not a secret that personal hygiene, clean water and proper sanitation are key pillars of cholera control everywhere in the world.

Many churches are complaining that the government directive has come late hence it may be difficult to observe what has been set by the authorities.

Government has not talked about new things at all, this is what health experts have always talked about for the past months if we are to succeed in containing cholera.

Health education was undertaken on numerous media platforms which include both print and broadcast media, alas, some people close their ears.

Cholera vaccination have been undertaken in cholera hotspots like Kuwadzana, however, some people shunned the mitigatory measures citing their own reasons.

How then can we contain the deadly diarrhoeal disease if we ignore the necessary preventive measures we are expected to follow?

If churches do not follow the prescribed measures as outlined in the Cabinet bulletin on Tuesday, authorities are left with no options except to ban gatherings in the interest of public health.

Health is very important and the country cannot afford to continue losing people from preventable and treatable medieval diseases like cholera because of simply ignoring basic hygiene.

During COVID-19, all busines came to a standstill when government introduced lockdowns and the country was saved.

Less than 6 000 people succumbed to the deadly pandemic but some of us are here today because of such measures.

Report symptoms of cholera as soon as you suspect them. Hydration is needed as soon as you start losing water.

Oral rehydration solution can be the first line of defence but complicated cases may require hospital admission for intravenous fluids and drugs. Observe good hygiene, use clean water and have sanitation facilities.

  • Johannes Marisa is president of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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