Geneva: After years of declining cases, Cholera has made an unwelcome comeback with a worrying upsurge of outbreaks around the globe over the past year. In the first nine months of this year alone, 27 countries have reported cholera outbreaks, the World Health Organization reported today.
“Not only are we seeing more outbreaks, but more deadly outbreaks,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. The data – which are limited – show the average case fatality rate so far this year is almost three times the rate of the past five years.
While in Syria, more than 10 000 suspected cases have been reported just in the past six weeks, in Haiti, after more than three years with no cases of cholera, two cases have been officially reported this week in the capital Port-au-Prince, with 20 suspected cases and 7 deaths under investigation in other areas. It’s likely the actual number of cases is significantly higher. This outbreak is a particular setback as Haiti was preparing to be certified as cholera-free later this year.
Although cholera can kill within hours, it can be prevented with vaccines and access to safe water and sanitation and can be treated easily with oral rehydration or antibiotics for more severe cases. But the reality is that many people don’t have access to these simple interventions.
In 2013, WHO and its partners created an international stockpile of cholera vaccines, which last year shipped 27 million doses. But with an increasing number of outbreaks, supply cannot keep up with demand.
“We urge the world’s leading vaccine manufacturers to talk to us about how we can increase production,” Dr Ghebreyesus said, and pointed out that while cholera thrives on poverty and conflict, it is now being “turbo-charged” by climate change.
Extreme climate events like floods, cyclones and droughts further reduce access to clean water and create the ideal environment for cholera to spread. “Cholera is deadly, but it’s also preventable and treatable. With the right planning and action, we can reverse this trend,” the WHO D-G said.
Top: File photo of Cholera vaccination by a US rescue team doctor
– global bihari bureau