08/30/2010 // West Palm Beach , FL, US // Sandra Quinlan // Sandra Quinlan
West Palm Beach, FL—More than 600 people have lost their lives as a result of a deadly cholera outbreak in the African countries of Nigeria and Cameroon. An evident lack of clean drinking water and access to lavatories, along with recent bouts of flooding, have contributed to the spread of the dangerous disease, according to a August 27, 2010 CNN report.
“Although most of the outbreaks occurred in the northwest and northeast zones, epidemiological evidence indicates that the entire country is at risk,” said the Federal Ministry of Health Nigeria.
More than 6,400 people have been sickened by Nigeria’s outbreak of the intestinal infection thus far. As of Wednesday, August 25, 352 cases proved fatal in Nigeria alone. Nearly 300 people in the neighboring country of Cameroon have been killed as a result of the cholera outbreak as well.
“There’s a lot of people crossing over the border all the time… So it’s not surprising that the cholera is also crossing over the border,” explained Dr. Eric Mintz, leader of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s global water sanitation and hygiene epidemiology team.
According to Nigeria’s Health Ministry, two out of three rural Nigeria’s do not have access to clean drinking water. Additionally, less than 40 percent of individuals residing in states affected by the cholera outbreak have access “to toilet facilities of any description.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) defined cholera as an intestinal infection that can spur symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and serious dehydration. The disease claims approximately 120,000 lives annually and can prove fatal within hours if left untreated, the WHO added.
Given that many people in rural Nigeria and Cameroon do not have access to medical aid, the infection fatality rate is much higher than it would be under “ideal conditions.” Once infected by the disease, its victims tend to release much-needed sodium and potassium through their stool and vomit.
Without prompt medical attention, the infection can be fatal. Dr. Mintz noted, ‘That delay can be critical… If you don’t get the fluids and the electrolytes replaced through hydration, you can go into shock and die as a result.”
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