The recent outbreak in Haiti has put Cholera into the spotlight. With more than 150 dead, the epidemic has spread rapidly throughout the nation, which was ravaged by an earthquake in January, 2010. Prior to this outbreak, the disease had not been seen in Haiti since the early 20th century.
In this blog post, we will explore the deadly disease and discuss how outbreaks can occur.
The Facts about Cholera:
- Cholera is a gastrointestinal infection caused by the Vibrio Cholerae bacterium which infects the small intestine and causes massive watery stools, resulting in extreme dehydration.
- It is endemic to the Indian subcontinent.
- The first pandemic of the disease occurred from 1816 to 1826 in India, killing millions.
- The disease is a major cause of death throughout the world.
- Typical mortality rates with prompt treatment are less than 1%, but spike to 50% if left untreated.
- And I thought it was rough to paper-train JR!
How do people get Cholera and why does it spread?
- It is transmitted via the fecal-oral route, typically through consumption of contaminated water or food.
- Direct person-to-person transmission is unlikely, but does take place. I’m not so sure about dog-to-dog transmission.
- In developing countries such as Haiti, the water sanitation infrastructure is severely lacking. Residents are too often forced to retrieve water from natural sources such as rivers which are easily contaminated.
- Does this mean the family and I should stop drinking out of the toilet bowl?
What is being done in Haiti?
- Charities and sponsoring corporations are working together to produce facilities that produce 10,000 gallons of fresh, clean water each day.
- Oral Rehydration Therapy is the main form of treatment for Cholera. For humans, this is usually done via IVs. For canines, bowls do just fine.
- Healthcare workers in the infected Artibonite Region are distributing information about the importance of hand-washing and drinking only treated-water.
- Authorities at the Pan American Health Organization say it is too late to administer the Cholera vaccine, as 80% of the population is already carrying the disease.
- Health aides are being set up in many communities to help prevent outbreaks through use of fast antibiotic and rehydration therapies.
A disease or condition is considered an “outbreak” when it reaches more cases than typical during a certain amount of time. The Cholera crisis in Haiti has been termed an “outbreak” because of the extreme number of cases as well as the time elapsed since the disease was last identified en masse in the country. Outbreaks of various diseases occur regularly. For example, Californians currently have a Whooping Cough problem and Brazilians have developed Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. At the doggy daycare where we stay when our humans are on vacation, they often battle kennel cough.
Disease outbreaks and natural disasters require similar response methods. Both require proper planning and prevention. But when, despite our best efforts disaster strikes, then an organized and informed response is the best way to control the damage.
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