Yulandi's pilgrimage

Experiencing life and teaching what I know.

Cholera – A devastating disease.


What is cholera?

Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but sometimes it can be severe. Approximately one in 20 infected persons has severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhoea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these persons, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

How does a person get cholera?

A person may get cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the cholera bacterium. In an epidemic, the source of the contamination is usually the faeces of an infected person. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water. The cholera bacterium may also live in the environment in brackish rivers and coastal waters. Shellfish eaten raw have been a source of cholera. The disease is not likely to spread directly from one person to another; therefore, casual contact with an infected person is not a risk for becoming ill.

Can cholera be treated?

Cholera can be simply and successfully treated by immediate replacement of the fluid and salts lost through diarrhoea. Patients can be treated with oral rehydration solution, a pre-packaged mixture of sugar and salts to be mixed with water and drunk in large amounts. This solution is used throughout the world to treat diarrhoea. Severe cases also require intravenous fluid replacement. With prompt rehydration, less than 1% of cholera patients die.
Antibiotics shorten the course and diminish the severity of the illness, but they are not as important as rehydration. Persons who develop severe diarrhoea and vomiting in countries where cholera occurs should seek medical attention promptly.

(Courtesy http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/dfbmd/disease_listing/cholera_gi.html)


Even though it’s been recorded that cholera breaks out in first world countries like the USA, a huge concern in countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa have aroused in the last few weeks. Thousands have already died of the cholera virus in Zimbabwe. Several cases of cholera in the past week have been reported in Limpopo, Kwa – Zulu – Natal and even Western Cape. Authorities blame the breakout on people visiting Zimbabwe and bringing the disease back from a country where the conditions are ideal for the virus to flourish.

The Tubatse River near Burgersfort, Limpopo has however been tested during the past week. The tests for cholera were positive. Twelve people have already died in the Greater Tubatse District. 25 People was treated for cholera at the Dilikong Hospital. According to health inspectors the recent rains are to blame for human faeces contaminating the water.

Most of our school’s learners are using the Tubatse River as their main water resource. Measures have been taken by the school principal to provide clean drinkable water to the learners. Simple safety measures can be taken to provide safe drinking water.

  • Drink only water that you have boiled or treated with chlorine or iodine. Other safe beverages include tea and coffee made with boiled water and carbonated bottled beverages with no ice.
  • Eat only foods that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot, or fruit that you have peeled yourself.
  • Avoid undercooked or raw fish or shellfish.
  • Make sure all vegetables are cooked and avoid salads.
  • Avoid foods and beverages from street vendors.
  • If you suspect having the disease immediately seek medical help.

A simple rule of thumb is “Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.”

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1 Comment»

  Lois wrote @

I was born and grew up in Java, Indonesia. This blog reminds me of the time at shool when we had to have free/no charge TCD (Typhus, Cholera, Dysentria)vaccination.

Good entry, especially for those who are travelling to the 3rd world countries.

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