Cholera in Africa: Myths, Causes, Prevention, and Treatment


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Cholera Outbreak in Africa
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Cholera in Africa: Myths, Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It spreads through contaminated food and water, poor sanitation and hygiene practices. Cholera is a significant public health problem in many parts of Africa, with outbreaks occurring frequently, especially during the rainy season. In this article, we will discuss the prevalence of cholera in Africa, its causes, mode of transmission, pathogenicity, myths, and interventions by WHO, UNICEF, and the United Nations. We will also explore the treatment options, vaccine, and prevention measures available.

Prevalence of Cholera in Africa

Cholera is endemic in many parts of Africa, with outbreaks occurring frequently in countries such as Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were over 130,000 cases of cholera reported in Africa in 2019, with over 3,000 deaths.

Causes and Mode of Transmission

The bacterium Vibrio cholerae is responsible for causing cholera. It is transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food and water. Poor sanitation and hygiene practices, including the lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities, contribute significantly to the spread of cholera. The disease can also be spread through direct contact with the fecal matter of an infected person.


Cholera bacteria produce a toxin that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration. The toxin affects the small intestine, leading to the rapid loss of fluids and electrolytes, which can result in death within hours if left untreated.

Myths surrounding Cholera in Africa 

There are several myths and misconceptions about cholera outbreaks in Africa, some of which are:

Myth 1: Cholera is caused by witchcraft or curses.

Answer: Cholera is caused by a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae, which is spread through contaminated food and water. It has nothing to do with witchcraft or curses.

Myth 2: Cholera only affects poor people and those living in unsanitary conditions.

Answer: Cholera can affect anyone who ingests contaminated food or water, regardless of their socioeconomic status or living conditions. However, people living in poverty or with limited access to clean water and sanitation facilities are at a higher risk of contracting cholera.

Myth 3: Cholera is a death sentence.

Answer: Cholera can be a life-threatening illness if left untreated, but it is easily treatable with oral rehydration therapy (ORT) and antibiotics. With proper treatment, the mortality rate for cholera is less than 1%.

Myth 4: Cholera outbreaks are inevitable in Africa due to poor infrastructure and lack of resources.

Answer: While poor infrastructure and limited resources can contribute to the spread of cholera, it is not inevitable. Preventative measures such as improving sanitation and access to clean water, educating communities about hygiene practices, and responding quickly to outbreaks can help prevent and control cholera.

Myth 5: Cholera outbreaks are caused by natural disasters.

Answer: While natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes can increase the risk of cholera outbreaks by damaging water and sanitation systems, cholera outbreaks are ultimately caused by a lack of clean water and sanitation facilities, as well as poor hygiene practices.

Note: It is important to dispel these myths and promote accurate information about cholera to prevent the spread of the disease and ensure that those affected receive proper treatment and care.

WHO, UNICEF, and United Nations Interventions

The World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the United Nations have been working tirelessly to prevent and control cholera outbreaks in Africa. Their interventions have focused on improving water, sanitation, and hygiene practices, as well as enhancing disease surveillance, early detection, and response systems. WHO and UNICEF have also supported the development of oral cholera vaccines and their deployment in high-risk areas.

Treatment and Vaccine

The treatment of cholera involves the prompt administration of oral rehydration salts (ORS) or intravenous fluids to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to shorten the duration of diarrhea and reduce the severity of symptoms. The development of safe and effective cholera vaccines has been a significant breakthrough in the prevention and control of the disease. The two main types of cholera vaccines available are the oral cholera vaccine and the injectable cholera vaccine.

Prevention of Cholera in Africa

Preventive measures for cholera in Africa include improving water, sanitation, and hygiene practices, enhancing disease surveillance systems, and the deployment of cholera vaccines in high-risk areas. Proper sanitation facilities, including the provision of clean water and toilets, are crucial in preventing the spread of cholera. Regular hand washing with soap and clean water can also help reduce the risk of infection.

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