Cholera: Early Medical Intervention Saves Lives
Cholera, a bacterial disease could be fatal, if not treated on time. In Nigeria, it has killed people in different states and communities, including Bayelsa, Jos and Ebonyi among others. Medical experts warn that early medical treatment is paramount if detected.
Dr. Akaehomen Austeen, Medical Director, City of David Hospital, Festac Town, Lagos, says that Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio Cholerae. The incubation period is two hours to five days.
“Cholera is an extremely virulent disease. It affects both children and adults and can kill within hours. About 80 percent of people infected with Vibrio Cholerae do not develop any symptoms, although the bacteria are present in their faeces for one to 10 days after infection and are shed back into the environment, potentially infecting other people.
“Symptoms include watery diarrhea, vomiting, muscle cramps, sunken eyes and weakness. Other symptoms are dry mouth, cold clammy skin, wrinkled hand and feet. The disease can be recognised by the above symptoms and the stool that looks like rice water and has a fishy odour. Cholera can also be diagnosed by a stool test. Transmission is by ingestion of contaminated food or water caused by poor sanitation. In developing countries, it is most commonly from contaminated water,” he says.
What are the risk factors and how can one guard against the disease?
Austeen explains that the risk factors for the disease include poor sanitation, lack of clean drinking water and poverty. Cholera is, however, preventable.
Measures that can be taken to guard against cholera include improved sanitation through regular hand washing, proper disposal of faeces and access to clean water among others. Cholera can also be prevented by using cholera vaccine, which is given orally. It provides protection for about six months.
On how this disease can be treated, Dr. Austeen says that in most cases, the disease can be successfully treated with Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT). In severe cases with significant dehydration, intravenous rehydration will be necessary.
“Patients suffering from cholera lose a lot of potassium. This can be replaced by eating potassium-rich fruits such as bananas and green coconut water. Antibiotics can also be used as they shorten the course of the disease and reduce the severity of the symptoms.
“Zinc supplementation reduces the severity and duration of the disease in children. Continued eating speeds the recovery of normal intestinal function. So, sufferers are advised to continue to eat frequently. Early medical intervention saves lives. If people with cholera are treated quickly and properly, the mortality rate is less than one percent, but if untreated, could be as high as 50 to 60 per