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A Story about an Outbreak of Cholera Infection in West Africa

A Story about an Outbreak of Cholera Infection in West Africa

Cholera remains one of the most dangerous diseases in various parts of Africa, killing hundreds and sometime thousands of people every year. The causing agent, Vibrio cholera, is a Gram-positive and comma shaped bacteria that produces cholera toxin during cellular infection in humans (Sack, Sack, Nair & Siddique, 2011). This toxin is fatal, initiating profuse and watery diarrhoea among the patients. This is the major aspect of the disease, which kills most of its patients. Most of the cases are found in Africa probably due to poverty, poor sanitation and poorly developed sewage treatment systems. In fact, apart from the recent fatal cases of cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, most of the deadly incidents of the infection are recorded in Africa.

One of the stories hitting headlines in the recent past is the death of thousands of people in West Africa, especially in coastal slums and other informal settlements along the West African coast. It is a story worth telling, especially in epidemiological perspective.

The story, titled “Cholera Epidemic Envelops Coastal Slums in West Africa”, was written on The New York Times on 22 August 2012. Adam Nossiter, the writer and the NYT’s West African reporter, specifically focused on the incidents of the disease in certain slums in various cities, including Freetown, Dakar and Conakry (Nossiter, 2012). According to Nossiter (2012), about two-thirds of the population in the three cities lack toilets, which pose a major health threat during rainy seasons. Contamination of water supply with human faeces is common in the region (Sack, Sack, Nair & Siddique, 2011).

During the 2012 incident, more than 13,000 people were infected with the bacteria, while more then 300 deaths were reported. The rate of infection in Freetown was shocking. For instance, the Sierra Leone government declared the disease a national disaster after noting the number of people dying every day. According to the article, it was evident that the governments could not tackle the problems alone, which forced them to seek for international invention. The World Health Organization, the Doctors without Boarders and other international organizations were forced to intervene to save lives. Flooding made the situation worse because most people were left without a good supply of water after the floods swept human faeces and contaminated the water supply (Nossiter, 2012). In addition, it was difficult to provide the flood victims with good water, food and medicine because the sprawling slums lack good roads. In addition, the population is large, which made it difficult to reach and provide them with good health services.

The story shows that in 2012 alone, Sierra Leone had more than 11,600 cases of the disease, with more than 200 deaths. In addition, the city of Freetown recorded more then 1,000 new cases every week, making it a fatal incident (Nossiter, 2012). Most of the patients were the poor people living in slums and other informal settlements along the West African coast. In addition, the article reports that the actual number of deaths could have been higher than the reported because some deaths occurred unnoticed or in areas where it was not possible to reach for the victims. Thus, such deaths were not reported.

From this story, it is evident that lack of sanitation and proper sewage disposal are a major health problem in some West African nations, especially in slums. Although the disease is curable, the situation in West Africa is shocking, especially because the rates of infection as well as mortality rates are relatively high. Therefore, there is need for proper interventions during such events in order to reduce the number of deaths (Sack, Sack, Nair & Siddique, 2011).

References

Nossiter, A. (2012, August 22). Cholera Epidemic Envelops Coastal Slums in West Africa. The New York Times, p. A6.
Sack, D. A., Sack, R.B., Nair, G. B., & Siddique, A.K. (2011). Cholera. Lancet 363 (9404), 223–33.

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