By Jane Beatrice Obila
Sadly, we haven’t gotten rid of cholera completely and it appears that the risk of a new outbreak is with us. The recent reports point out to a new wave of cholera that may have significantly put a strain in our health systems. The number of cholera cases reported in the country has risen and there is a need for the Ministry of Health (MoH) to take action to educate the public on basic preventive measures to curb it from spreading.
According to a May 2023 report by MoH, 17 counties have reported cholera cases with Garissa reporting the highest cases by 2,163 followed by Mandera with 1,164, Nairobi with 1,196, Tana River with 762, and Wajir with 655 while it continues soaring in other counties.
Many people do not know what they should do to keep this disease at bay. By offering educational programs, it is possible to prevent it because, in most scenarios, cholera is caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water.
The most affected people live in areas with inadequate water supply and sewage treatment. This disease causes severe diarrhea and dehydration that can kill within hours if left untreated. Researchers have estimated that every year, there are about 1.3 to 4.0 million cases of cholera and 21,000 to 143,000 deaths worldwide, thus the need to address swiftly and decisively.
Even though the government has been offering quality health services to those who have contracted the disease and, in some cases, even conducting contract tracing to stop its spread, it is time they educate the public about necessary measures they should take to curb cholera. These measures could cover ideas of prevention and in cases of infection, treatment, and care before seeking medical attention. This is because, areas like Tana River country have numerous challenges with transport system and many patients succumb to the disease before getting to a health facility.
Without educating the public on how to prevent the spread, the disease may cause a public health nightmare for the government. According to WHO, bacteria causing cholera are present in the feces for 1-10 days after infection and are shed back into the environment, potentially affecting other people downstream or who come in contact with the fecal matter in any way.
Encouraging people to choose where they buy food and other household goods will be essential as not all eateries operate in clean environments, thus acting as catalysts to the spread of this disease.
It is sad that when there is an outbreak, it is when health officials will talk about cholera again, teaching the public how to prevent and manage it, yet this should be a continuous process of sensitization the public to always equip them.
Educating people about the signs and symptoms, which include profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, and low blood pressure, will go a long way in reducing the casualties resulting from the disease.
Lest we forget that the government should ensure that citizens have access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and basic hygienic needs such as latrines to help in the prevention of this and other related diseases.