Cholera outbreak in Zambia kills 51 so far – Minister

A cholera outbreak that hit Zambia on October 6, 2017 is reported to have escalated this January 2018 as the country enters the rainy season, and 2,091 people have been infected with 51 deaths recorded nationwide so far; 48 of the deaths occurred in the capital Lusaka alone.

The country’s Local Government Minister, Vincent Mwale tweeted today January 4, 2018 that in the last 24 hours, 91 new cases have been recorded.

He also said three outlets belonging to a popular fast food joint in the capital, known as Hungry Lion have been found after tests, to harbour the bacteria that causes the infectious disease.

A December 31, 2017 press statement issued by the Zambian government and obtained by which directed that all markets, both legal and illegal should remain closed until they have been cleaned and certified as clean and conducive for business is still in force.

The government in that directive also banned large public gatherings of more than five people, unless they are a family. Other activities banned include church programmes, weddings, music concerts bars.

“…no such occasions shall take place in Lusaka unless cleared by the Ministry of Health or Lusaka City Council,” it says.

Sources in Lusaka tell that schools have been asked not to reopen after the Christmas holidays. The government has instructed the military to do a clean-up of the capital, urging the ,civilian to join.

“All members of the public are requested to participate in the clean-up and maintain personal hygiene. All members of the public are urged to avoid and stop buying raw and ready to eat foods from the streets and markets in the affected areas,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, the Zambian government has reportedly ordered the importation of cholera vaccines.

There are currently two approved cholera vaccines.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it is, together with its partners evaluating the use of the vaccines to complement the traditional means of combating cholera. The WHO believes that improvements in water supply, sanitation, food safety and community awareness of preventive measures are the best yet.

The UN agency says the oral vaccines which safety and effectiveness have been tested have recently become available for use by individuals.

Even though some countries have already used the vaccines on sections of their populations considered to be at high risk of cholera outbreaks, the WHO indicates that work is under way to investigate the role of mass vaccination as a public health strategy for protecting at risk populations against the disease.

“Issues being addressed include logistics, cost, timing, vaccine production capacity, and criteria for use of mass vaccination to contain and prevent outbreaks,” it says on its website.

The agency further indicates that documented duration of significant protection induced by current cholera vaccines is two years, adding that initial vaccination with two doses should be followed by a booster every second year.

The WHO explains that cholera is spread mainly by faecal contamination of water and food and is closely linked to poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water

“The actual global disease burden is estimated to be three to five million cases and 100 000– 130 000 deaths per year,” it says.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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