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Disease Focus: Cholera

Cholera: A Brief

by Nicole Kraatz

Vibrio cholerae is a bacterium that infects the human gastrointestinal system. This bacteria causes the disease Cholera. Cholera is an acute, diarrheal disease rare to the United States and other industrialized regions with proper sanitation, water treatment and hygiene practices. It has been said that Cholera outbreaks have been documented in India beginning in the early 1800s. One of the first epidemics to be recorded happened in 1817 near the Ganges River.

The Vibrio cholerae bacterium is typically found in water sources that have been contaminated by fecal matter. Food sources can also inhabit the bacteria by coming in contact with fecal matter from other persons already infected. Because of this, many geographical regions and developing countries with poor sanitation, water treatment and hygiene practices have the highest risks of developing Cholera. Those that live in Africa, specifically those that live in Sub-Saharan Africa are at the highest risk of contracting Cholera because of their lack of basic health care and clean water practices. Vibrio cholerae has also been found in raw shellfish gathered from the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the World Health Organization, about 3-5 million Cholera cases are reported annually with 100,000-120,000 documented deaths. Cases of Cholera vary in terms of severity. The incubation period for Vibrio cholerae ranges from a few hours up to 5 days. Symptoms of Cholera include profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, dry mucous membranes and lack of elasticity of the skin. If the progression of the disease is severe, Cholera can lead to acute renal failure, severe electrolyte imbalances and coma. If these symptoms go untreated, severe dehydration can quickly lead to shock and death.

Many cases of Cholera do not require medical treatment in order to recover, however 10% of patients will need some form of treatment in order to survive. Types of treatment for Cholera include prompt restoration of lost fluids and salts through rehydration therapy, antibiotic and zinc treatments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have came up with five basic rules to follow in order to prevent the spread of Cholera including using and drinking safe water, washing hands often and using latrines or burying fecal matter instead of defecating in bodies of water.  

Cholera in Lebanon

by Ava Nazemian

Paul Farmer, Slowing Down the Cholera Epidemic in Haiti

By Jason Zheng

Dr. Paul Farmer is one of the renowned infectious disease doctor and passionate promoter of decent heath care for the poor. Partners in Health is non-governmental organization that he participates to promote positive advocacy of making healthcare more accessible to region all around the world that are not able to practice this general human right.

It can be said that a total of 8,927 people from Haiti alone died from cholera as of April 2015. Haiti is one of the countries that Dr. Farmer assists to provide medical assistance with no cost. He also gives his personal account on how to slow the cholera epidemic down.

Dr. Farmer states that it is important to identify and treat everyone with symptoms. The most efficient way to do this is to fully utilize the community health workers to help identify these cases. It would not be a safe to approach it by letting patients show up to see a doctor when the time may be just too late for them.

Dr. Farmer argues that the sick needs to be treated with antibiotics and make oral cholera vaccine readily available for patients. It would be wise to administer the vaccine first before rehydration of the patient because it can be problem some if the patient isn’t properly treated. It would also be a good idea to spread advocacy of the vaccinations that are available to the general public, that way people would be more engaged.

Providing safe drinking water quality is essential to prevent the spread of cholera. Cholera is a feared by the public as a waterborne disease. Establishing informal settlements and refugee camps are inefficient, because they lack the proper sanitized location needed to treat patients.

This also means that it is necessary for people to practice proper personal and food hygiene. In addition, properly disposing human excrements. This also falls into the category of making an effort to deal with other transmissible diseases (e.g. HVI/AIDS). There should be a better focus on strengthening the country’s overall health care system, because this would be the first step for prevention and assistance.

Dr. Farmer also states that it is a primary importance to raise the bar on health care goals in Haiti. Cholera does not remain local for long; it spreads like any other disease. To raise awareness and effort of any type of disease it would require the participation of the community as well. 

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