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Preventing cholera by personal hygiene, healthy environment

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Cholera outbreak

Cholera is a serous infection of the bowels caused by infected water and food, which causes diarrhoea, vomiting and could lead to death, if not treated properly.

Recently, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has reported outbreaks of cholera in Kaduna, Plateau and Adamawa States.

To prevent this, health experts have warned people to stop defecating in bodies of water.

They advocate higher personal and communal hygiene by properly disposing of human wastes, regular hand wash with soap and water, especially after using the toilet, as well as general cleaning of environment.

Dr. Modupe Akinyinka a Lecturer/Consultant Public Health Physician, Department of Community Health and Primary Health Care, Lagos State University College of Medicine, Ikeja, Lagos, said government should ensure proper environmental sanitation, especially for proper feaces and refuse disposal in the community.

Government should also provide safe, potable water for all citizens, increase funding for health sector to ensure all citizens have access to prompt healthcare at all times, as well as ensure there is improved disease surveillance and health education of communities on disease prevention.

She explained that most people infected with V.cholerae do not develop any symptom, although the bacteria is present in their faeces for one to 10 days after infection and are pushed into the environment, potentially infecting other people.

She said: “Among people that develop symptoms, the majority have mild or moderate symptoms, while a minority develop acute watery diarrhoea with severe dehydration.

This can lead to death if left untreated. Signs and symptoms of cholera can begin as soon as a few hours or as long as five days after infection and include severe acute diarrhoea with production of “rice water stools”, vomiting, resulting in rapid dehydration.

“Signs and symptoms of dehydration include rapid heart rate, dry mucous membranes, muscular cramps, thirst, loss of skin elasticity and low blood pressure.”

“Cholera is an easily treatable disease,” she explained. “It is transmitted by ingesting or drinking contaminated food or water and can kill within hours if untreated.

To prevent cholera, good personal and food hygiene should be maintained, especially hand washing, environmental sanitation, proper excreta and refuse disposal, keeping the environment clean are essential.

“Anybody with diarrhoea/vomiting should quickly be taken to the nearest health centre/hospital for adequate attention.

“People should always practise good personal and food hygiene, especially environmental sanitation because these prevent a lot of diseases, including cholera.

“Any sign of ill health must be reported to the health centre quickly to prevent spread and loss of lives.”

Dr. Ezekiel Sofela Oridota, a Senior lecturer and Consultant Public Health Physician, Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit, Department of Community health and Primary care, College of Medicine, University of Lagos and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos noted cholera is occurring more frequently and is on the rise because of increase in poor refuse disposal and lack of personal hygiene.

He advised that people should be careful of water they drink and make sure it is well treated for human consumption.

He said: “For prevention of cholera and such diseases, people should not litter their homes because cholera starts when we fail to clean waste materials that litter our environments.

Therefore, people should endeavour to keep their environment clean.”

“Government should provide health education among the people by creating radio and television jingles, including other networks to educate people on what to do to avoid cholera infections.

People need to be aware of the importance of visiting hospital whenever they have symptoms.

“We also need to increase and strengthen our surveillance.

Some of the disease outbreaks we had in the past were as a result of poverty and ignorance. So, government should reduce poverty and ignorance in the society.”


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