Another Third-World Disease Is Back

Cholera prevention signage, Zambia. SuSanA Secretariat, CC BY 2.0

“Cholera is a highly contagious disease that occurs in settings without clean water and proper sanitation—from poor, remote villages to overcrowded cities, refugee camps and conflict zones. It causes profuse diarrhea and vomiting which can lead to death by intense dehydration, sometimes within hours.” – Doctors Without Borders 

WHO anti-cholera vaccination campaign begins in Sudan

Oct 11, 2019

CAIRO (AP) — The World Health Organization has launched a vaccination campaign in two southeastern provinces in Sudan to contain a cholera outbreak following flash floods that swept the country in late August.

Friday’s statement from the WHO says more than 1.6 million people, aged 1 year and above, will be vaccinated over the next five days in the Blue Nile and Sennar provinces, where 262 of the suspected cholera cases and eight deaths have been reported since Sept. 8.

The statement says the campaign is the outcome of cooperation between Sudan’s federal ministry of health, the WHO, UNICEF and the global vaccine alliance, Gavi.

It adds that a second round of vaccination is expected in four to six weeks to protect people against cholera for at least three years.

“Cholera is preventable and easily treated, yet it infects millions of people each year and causes up to 140,000 deaths.” – Doctors Without Borders

Oct 1, 2019

The Guardian (UK) – Victims of the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti, which killed at least 10,000 people and infected hundreds of thousands more, are petitioning the US Supreme Court to hold the UN accountable for having brought the disease to the stricken country.

The nine supreme court justices will meet in conference to discuss whether to hear Laventure v UN as one of their cases of the new term.

The petition goes to the heart of the question: should the world body be answerable in domestic courts for the harm it causes people it is there to serve?

The UN has admitted that cholera was introduced to Haiti by peacekeepers in 2010 after about 1,000 troops were redeployed from Nepal to help in emergency work following a devastating earthquake.

Basic health measures that could have been taken to prevent the transfer of the disease at the cost to the UN of only $2,000 were not taken, and instead raw sewage from the peackekeepers’ camps was dumped directly into rivers from which thousands of Haitians routinely drew water for cooking and drinking.

A leaked report carried out by the UN itself a month after the initial outbreak of cholera found serious sanitation flaws in the Haiti peacekeeping mission.

Yet for six years the world body continued to deny it had anything to do with the health catastrophe.

Crucially, the UN continues to reject any requests for compensation from the hundreds of thousands of Haitian victims. It insists that it has total immunity from such claims relating to the harmful impact caused by its staff carrying out routine business. Read more. 

“President Donald Trump was offered the opportunity to deny he once referred to African nations as ‘shithole’ countries while hosting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in Washington on Monday, but instead said there are ‘some countries that are in very bad shape.'” – Business Insider, Apr 30, 2018

Cholera in the United States

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Cholera, caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, is very rare in the U.S.

Cholera was common domestically in the 1800s but water-related spread has been eliminated by modern water and sewage treatment systems.

Nearly all of the cholera cases reported in U.S. are acquired during international travel. U.S. travelers to areas with cholera (for example, parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, or Haiti) may be exposed to Vibrio cholerae.

During outbreaks in countries near the U.S., such as Haiti in 2010 and Latin America in the 1990s, cholera cases reported domestically increased.

In addition, contaminated seafood brought into the U.S. has caused cholera infections from foodborne outbreaks.

Cholera and Other Vibrio Illness Surveillance System (COVIS)

The Cholera and Other Vibrio Illness Surveillance System (COVIS) was initiated by CDC, FDA,External and the Gulf Coast states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas) in 1988.

CDC maintains COVIS to obtain reliable information on illnesses associated with a species in the family Vibrionaceae; COVIS provides this information, which includes risk groups, risk exposures, and trends to regulatory and to other prevention agencies. COVIS is part of the National Surveillance Team of the Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch.

All confirmed cases of Vibrio infection should be reported to the CDC using the Cholera and Other Vibrio Illness Surveillance Report Form Cdc-pdf[PDF – 4 pages].

“Cholera is rare in the United States (annual average 6 cases). Since epidemic cholera began in Hispaniola in 2010, a total of 23 cholera cases caused by toxigenic Vibrio cholerae O1 have been confirmed in the United States. Twenty-two case-patients reported travel to Hispaniola and 1 reported consumption of seafood from Haiti.” – National Institutes of Health, November 2011

Should U.S. Immigration Officials Be On Guard Against Cholera? 

It wouldn’t be the first  time … 

San Diego Health Officials Brace for Arrival of Cholera

Experts fear that migrant camps along the border may be vulnerable to the epidemic raging in the Americas. A major outbreak in the United States is not expected.

Oct 1, 1991

SAN DIEGO — Health officials here are alerting doctors as they brace for the arrival of cholera, an epidemic that has spread north through the Americas and struck a new nation each month since it was first discovered in Peru in January.

Federal and local health officials stress that a major outbreak of cholera is not expected to hit the United States. But there might be poor areas along border states–particularly colonias in Texas and migrant camps in San Diego County–that are vulnerable to the disease, they say.

Cholera, known as a disease of the poor, flourishes in areas with inadequate water and sewage systems and unsanitary food storage. The life-threatening disease, which is easily treated, is caused by a bacterium transmitted through contaminated water or food. Symptoms include dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting and cramps … Read more. 


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