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Cholera: 7 ways to stay safe

Cholera remains a global threat to public health and is an indicator of inequity and lack of social development. Researchers have estimated that every year, there are 1.3 to 4.0 million cases of cholera, and 21 000 to 143 000 deaths worldwide due to the infection.
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Cholera 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 untreated.
Most people infected with Vibrio cholerae do not develop any symptoms, although the bacteria are present in their faeces for 1-10 days after infection. This means the bacteria are shed back into the environment, potentially infecting other people.

From April 1 to April 30, 2024, there have been 52,526 new cholera cases and 529 new deaths reported globally. The five countries with the highest number of cases are Syria (9,820), Afghanistan (8,754), Ethiopia (5,514), Yemen (4,276), and Haiti (4,204).

The countries reporting the highest number of new deaths are Zimbabwe (140), Haiti (108), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (90), Comoros (70), and Ethiopia (43). New cholera cases have been reported in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burundi, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Tanzania, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Between January 1 and April 30, 2024, there have been 150,866 cholera cases and 1,775 deaths reported worldwide. In comparison, during the same period in 2023, there were 241,560 cases and 1,880 deaths reported globally.

As of April 28, 2024, data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) shows that Nigeria has recorded 815 suspected cholera cases and 14 deaths across 25 states. Cholera is often predictable and preventable. It can ultimately be eliminated where access to clean water and sanitation facilities, as well as good hygiene practices, are ensured and sustained for the whole population.

To stay safe during a suspected cholera outbreak in Lagos, residents should take the following precautions:

1. Practice good hygiene: Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially before eating, after using the restroom, and after any contact with potentially contaminated surfaces or materials.

2. Ensure Safe Water: Drink only treated or boiled water. Avoid consuming untreated water, ice, or beverages made with tap water. Ensure that the water used for cooking or washing fruits and vegetables is safe.

3. Proper Sanitation: Use clean and safe toilets. Avoid open defecation, and encourage proper disposal of human waste to prevent contamination of water sources.

4. Food Safety: Consume only thoroughly cooked food. Avoid eating raw or undercooked seafood, fruits, and vegetables that may have been washed with contaminated water.

5. Avoid Contaminated Areas: Stay away from areas with poor sanitation practices, contaminated water sources, or known outbreaks of cholera.

6. Stay Informed: Pay attention to health advisories and updates from local health authorities. Follow their guidelines and recommendations for staying safe during the outbreak.

7. Seek Medical Attention: If experiencing symptoms such as severe diarrhoea, vomiting, and dehydration, seek medical help immediately. Early treatment can significantly improve the chances of recovery.

8. Promote Community Awareness: Encourage friends, family, and neighbours to practice good hygiene, sanitation, and food safety measures to prevent the spread of cholera within the community.

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