CHOLERA PANDEMIC: Causes, Symptoms and Precautions–Margret Oshinowo

In recent times people have been victims of this deadly disease.

Many lives are reportedly lost as a result of this illness while others have been fixed to save their lives.

Cholera is an infectious and often fatal bacterial disease of the small intestine typically contracted from infected water supplies and causing severe vomiting and diarrhoea.

Due to these unfortunate incidents that have been caused by this infection, it is, however, important to learn what Cholera is all about, its causes, symptoms and relative precautions.

According to medical experts; cholera tends to spread more during the rainy season.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by eating or drinking food or water that is contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Cholera remains a global threat to public health and is an indicator of inequity and lack of social development.

It is an extremely serious disease that can cause severe acute watery diarrhoea with severe dehydration. It takes between 12 hours and 5 days for a person to show symptoms after consuming contaminated food or water. Cholera affects both children and adults and can kill within hours if not properly treated.

CAUSES

Cholera infection is caused by bacteria called Vibrio cholerae.

Contaminated water supplies are the main source of cholera infection. The bacterium can be found in:

  • Surface or well water: Contaminated public wells are frequent sources of large-scale cholera outbreaks.
  • Seafood: Eating raw or undercooked seafood, especially shellfish, that comes from certain places can expose you to cholera bacteria.
  • Raw fruits and vegetables: Raw, unpeeled fruits and vegetables are a frequent source of cholera infection in areas where there’s cholera.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of cholera infection can include:

  • Diarrhoea:Cholera-related diarrhoea comes on suddenly. Individuals need to ask for help from any health facilities if there are symptoms of severe diarrhoea.
  • Nausea and vomiting:Vomiting occurs especially in the early stages of cholera and can last for hours.
  • Dehydration: Dehydration can develop within hours after cholera symptoms start and range from mild to severe. A loss of 10% or more of body weight indicates severe dehydration.

Signs and symptoms of cholera dehydration include irritability, fatigue, sunken eyes, a dry mouth,severe thirst.

  • Electrolyte imbalance: An electrolyte imbalance can lead to      serious signs and symptoms such as:

Muscle cramps and shock.

RISK FACTORS

  • Poor sanitary conditions.
  • Reduced or nonexistent stomach acid. Cholera bacteria can’t survive in an acidic environment, and ordinary stomach acid often serves as a defence against infection.
  • Household exposure to infected individuals.

COMPLICATIONS.

  • Cholera can quickly become fatal. In the most severe cases, the rapid loss of large amounts of fluids and electrolytes can lead to death within hours.
  •  Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia):Dangerously low levels of blood sugar (glucose) — the body’s main energy source — can occur when people become too ill to eat. Children are at greatest risk of this complication, which can cause seizures, unconsciousness and even death.
  • Low potassium levels: People with cholera lose large quantities of minerals, including potassium, in their stools. Very low potassium levels interfere with heart and nerve function and are life-threatening.
  • Kidney failure: When the kidneys lose their filtering ability, excess amounts of fluids, some electrolytes and wastes build up in the body — a potentially life-threatening condition. In people with cholera, kidney failure often accompanies shock.

PRECAUTIONS.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently.
  • Drink only safe water.
  • Eat food that’s completely cooked and hot.
  • Stick to fruits and vegetables that you can peel yourself.
  • Cholera vaccine.
  • Avoid sushi as well as raw or improperly cooked fish and seafood of any kind.

Subsequently, since the first outbreak of cholera in Nigeria in 1972, the country has experienced cholera outbreaks on an annual basis, especially during the rainy season when the disease tends to spread more easily due to poor drainage systems, hygiene practices and limited access to clean tap water.

The Lagos State Ministry of Health has reported 29 deaths and 579 cases since the cholera outbreak began two weeks ago.

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