From Francis Owusu-Ansah, Sunyani
The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, has issued an alert over a potential outbreak of cholera in the country.
The Ghana Health Service, in a statement, said the public must be cautious and adopt preventive measures to avoid contracting the disease. The statement from the GHS said: “With the onset of the rainy season and other prevailing conditions in the country, the possibility of a cholera outbreak is high.”
“Cholera is one of the diseases of national concern, because of the potential it has to cause outbreaks and major epidemics. As the rains have started to set in at certain locations of the country and will be getting to the peak season very soon, with the other existing prevailing risk factors, the risk for cholera outbreak is very high,” the statement said.
“This correspondence is to inform the general public to be cautious and to do their best to prevent and protect themselves against cholera. Cholera is a preventable disease, provided that safe water is made available and proper sanitation practices are adhered to… Signs and symptoms of Cholera are frequent diarrhoea with or without vomiting. Cholera spreads when the faeces and/or vomitus of an infected person contaminate the water or food of another person and it is swallowed.”
While emphasising that Cholera is preventable, the Ghana Health Service said the disease can be prevented “by improved environmental sanitation, personal hygiene and drinking safe water. Frequent hand washing with soap under running water is also recommended.”
It further advised persons who show signs and symptoms of Cholera to report urgently to the nearest health facility for treatment.
In 2014, a total of 28,975 cholera cases, with 243 deaths, were reported from 130 out of the 216 districts in all the 10 regions of Ghana, according to the GHS. In 2015, 618 cases were recorded, with five deaths. In 2016, more than 150 cholera cases were recorded in the Central Region, with no known death recorded.
Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and even death, if untreated. It is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae.
Cholera was prevalent in the U.S. in the 1800s, before modern water and sewage treatment systems eliminated its spread by contaminated water. Only about 10 cases of cholera are reported each year in the U.S. and half of these are acquired abroad. Rarely, contaminated seafood has caused cholera outbreaks in the U.S.
However, cholera outbreaks are still a serious problem in other parts of the world. At least, 150,000 cases are reported to the World Health Organisation each year.
The disease is most common in places with poor sanitation, crowding, war, and famine. Common locations include parts of Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. If you are traveling to one of those areas, knowing the following cholera facts can help protect you and your family.
Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium that causes cholera, is usually found in food or water contaminated by faeces from a person with the infection. Common sources include municipal water supplies, ice made from municipal water, foods and drinks sold by street vendors, vegetables grown with water containing human wastes, raw or undercooked fish and seafood caught in waters polluted with sewerage.
Symptoms of cholera can begin as soon as a few hours, or as long as five days after infection. Often, symptoms are mild. But, sometimes, they are very serious. About one in 20 people infected have severe watery diarrhoea, accompanied by vomiting, which can quickly lead to dehydration. Although many infected people may have minimal or no symptoms, they can still contribute to the spread of the infection.
Signs and symptoms of dehydration include rapid heart rate, loss of skin elasticity (the ability to return to original position quickly if pinched), dry mucous membranes, including the inside of the mouth, throat, nose, and eyelids, low blood pressure, thirst, and muscle cramps.
If not treated, dehydration can lead to shock and death in a matter of hours.
Cholera Treatment and Prevention
Although there is a vaccine against cholera, the CDC and World Health Organisation don’t normally recommend it, because it may not protect up to half of the people who receive it, and it lasts only a few months. However, you can protect yourself and your family by using only water that has been boiled; water that has been chemically disinfected, or bottled water.
Be sure to use the bottled, boiled, or chemically disinfected water for the following purposes: drinking, preparing food or drinks, making ice, brushing your teeth, washing your face and hands, washing dishes and utensils that you use to eat or prepare food, Washing fruits and vegetables
To disinfect your own water, boil it for one minute (or 3 minutes at higher elevations), or filter it and use a commercial chemical disinfectant. You should also avoid raw foods, including the following: unpeeled fruits and vegetables, unpasteurised milk and milk products, raw or undercooked meat or shellfish, fish caught in tropical reefs, which may be contaminated.
If you develop severe, watery diarrhoea and vomiting — particularly after eating raw shellfish or traveling to a country where cholera is epidemic — seek medical help immediately. Cholera is highly treatable, but because dehydration can happen quickly, it’s important to get cholera treatment right away.
Hydration is the mainstay of treatment for cholera. Depending on how severe the diarrhoea is, treatment will consist of oral or intravenous solutions to replace lost fluids. Antibiotics, which kill the bacteria, are not part of emergency treatment for mild cases. But they can reduce the duration of diarrhoea by half, and also reduce the excretion of the bacteria, thus helping to prevent the spread of the disease.