By Ezra Odogu, Abuja
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said it remains fully committed to protecting the health of Nigerians from diseases of public health importance such as cholera, even as the center has since begun the implementation of innovative approaches to tackle Cholera and other diseases.
This development is coming following the recent review and publication of the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on Cholera control – “Ending Cholera: A Global Roadmap to 2030”.
According to NCDC, Strengthening disease surveillance for early detection and quick response through innovative use of technology and data, and strengthening sub-national health security to boost response to Cholera outbreak, are some of the approaches aimed at stopping the disease.
The Director General and Chief Executive, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, who disclosed this, said NCDC is also supporting states across Nigeria to have a functional Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) from which they can mount a response, while adopting a multi-sectoral approach to meet the 2030 Cholera elimination by working with the environment and water and sanitary hygiene sectors in order to ensure that communities have good water and sanitary facilities which will prevent further outbreaks
He said the NCDC was using innovative technology such as Geospatial Mapping to fight Cholera infection, alongside support for sister agencies for the implementation of effective Cholera control strategies and monitoring of progress
NCDC, the director general said, will continue to provide a forum for technical exchange, coordination, and cooperation on cholera-related activities in order to strengthen the country’s capacity to prevent and control disease through the Cholera Technical Working Group (TWG) and Emergency Operation Centre (EOC); while disseminating technical guidelines and operational manuals.
According to him, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control will continues to work to increase the visibility of Cholera as an important global and national public health problem, through the dissemination of information about Cholera prevention and control, as well as advocacy and resource mobilization activities to support Cholera prevention and control at national, regional, and global levels.
Giving insights into how to prevent cholera in Nigeria, the NCDC boss said the key messages remains avoiding contaminated water or food, pointing out the prevention and preparedness of Cholera require a coordinated multidisciplinary approach.
Dr Ihekweazu explained that Cholera can rapidly lead to severe dehydration and death if left untreated. Adding in Nigeria, intermittent outbreaks of cholera occur through the year, with observed peaks at the onset of the rainy season and at the onset of the dry season respectively.
“Cholera, a waterborne disease, is a deadly infectious disease closely linked to poor environmental conditions. The disease causes severe watery diarrhea which can lead to rapid dehydration and even death if untreated.
“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cholera remains a global threat to public health and an indicator of inequity and lack of social development. Researchers have estimated that every year, there are roughly 1.3 to 4.0 million cases and 21,000 to 143,000 deaths worldwide due to cholera. In Nigeria, over 40,000 suspected cases were recorded in 2018, resulting in over 800 deaths across 206 LGAs in 20 States’, the NCDC DG said.
According to him, rural dwellers around rivers and lake shores are also at risk, while populations most affected are the ones living in unhealthy conditions, where environmental safety is not ensured. Lack of safe water and proper sanitation, as well as poor waste management, factors conducive to epidemics, are the main causes of spread of the disease.
He explained that most people infected with Cholera do not develop any symptoms, although the bacteria remain present in their faeces for 1-10 days after infection.
“Some symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and weakness. Among people who develop symptoms, a minority develop acute watery diarrhea with severe dehydration. This can lead to death if left untreated”, he added, while reiterating that cholera transmission is closely linked to inadequate access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
“Humanitarian crisis such as disruption of water and sanitation systems or displacement of populations to inadequate and overcrowded camps can increase the risk of Cholera transmission in infected areas”, he said, pointing out that cholera is an easily treatable disease, if detected early.
“Most infected people can be treated successfully through prompt administration of oral rehydration solution (ORS) and supportive treatment”, Dr Ihekweazu noted.
PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF CHOLERA
A combination of surveillance, water, sanitation and hygiene, social mobilization, treatment, and oral Cholera vaccines are used.
To prevent the spread of Cholera, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) advises Nigerians on the following five priority actions:
1. Ensure water is well boiled before drinking and bottled water is properly sealed. Store boiled water in a clean and safe container
2. Wash your hands frequently with soap and clean water. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
3. Ensure all food is well cooked before consumption. Avoid raw foods such as fruits and vegetables, except you have washed them in safe water or peeled them yourself.
4. Avoid open defecation and indiscriminate refuse dumping and ensure proper disposal of waste and clearing of sewage
5. If you experience sudden watery diarrhoea, please visit a health care facility immediately and take all sick persons with the signs or symptoms above to a health care facility immediately.
In addition, ensure you come out for vaccination during mass oral Cholera vaccination campaigns. The vaccines are safe and it is an effective way to protect you and your families.