This Year, Cholera Killed Over 650 Nigerians

Earlier this year, Patient Worthy reported on a deadly cholera outbreak which claimed 20 lives the Bomadi and Burutu areas of the state of Delta within Nigeria. Unfortunately, continued struggles, and a recent resurgence, have claimed hundreds of lives since then. According to Pulse.ng, cholera has now killed 653 Nigerians over the last 7 months.

The Outbreak

On January 29, 2021, at least 20 people within the state of Delta had already died. With the current number across Nigeria sitting at 653, this represents a 3,165% increase in mortality. Additionally, diagnoses and suspected cases are also rising, with a total number of suspected cholera cases sitting at 27,186. Over 1/4 of diagnoses are children between ages 5-14. Currently, cholera has been reported in states such as Bauchi, Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa, Kaduna, Borno, Yobe, and Kwara, amongst 14 others. While Bauchi is experiencing the highest reported number of diagnoses, Kano is experiencing the highest mortality rate.

Admittedly, this bacterial infection can be treated. But why is cholera so difficult to stop from spreading or to eradicate entirely? In Mosaic, in which the author discusses a separate cholera outbreak in Haiti in 2015, she states that:

About 75 per cent of infected carriers show no symptoms but remain contagious for up to two weeks. Cholera, it’s now understood, can survive in aquatic environments, making it far harder to eradicate.

In Nigeria, there are a number of other factors which impact eradication. For example, the healthcare infrastructure is not set up to be able to handle or manage all affected patients. There is also a lack of vaccines, security difficulties in broaching certain communities, widespread poverty, and a lack of safe, clean housing and water.

Currently, various Nigerian agencies are working to combat the outbreak. Some potential tactics include water chlorination or disinfection, as well as disinfecting the household; teaching high-risk communities about how the virus is spread and how to address things; and providing safe, clean water sources. It is crucial to begin instituting these changes within communities to prevent more people from dying.

Cholera

Vibrio cholerae (V. cholerae) bacteria causes cholera, a bacterial intestinal infection characterized by severe, and potentially life-threatening, vomiting and diarrhea. However, only around 10% of cases are considered severe and life-threatening. Many others with cholera, while contagious, are asymptomatic. In severe cases, cholera can be fatal within hours. Typically, in these cases, symptoms appear within 12 hours to 5 days of infection. The virus is spread through contaminated food or drinking water, as well as feces from infected individuals. Thus, areas with poor sewer systems, or inadequate access to safe food and water, are often at higher risk. Within severe cases, symptoms include:

  • Leg cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Cholera dehydration, characterized by:
    • A 10%+ loss in body weight
    • Irritability
    • Fatigue
    • Low blood pressure
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Sunken eyes
    • Extreme thirst

Patients experiencing symptoms should seek medical attention immediately to avoid severe dehydration, shock, and possibly death.

Learn more about cholera.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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