The United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) has raise alarm that 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North-East of Nigeria are at risk of getting infected with Cholera.
Of the 1.4 million Nigerians living in the Cholera-prone areas, about 350,000 are children under the age of five.
28 cases of dead victims have already been recorded while 837 have been reported which including about 145 children under the age of five in various IDPs camp in Maiduguri, Borno State.
In a statement signed by the UNICEF’s Chief of Communication, Doune Porter, UNICEF says heavy rainfall and the serious malnutrition faced by the children in the North-East will only heighten the rate of exposure to the disease.
“There is growing concern for the health and well being of 1.4 million displaced people, including 350,000 children under the age of five, living in Cholera ‘hotspots’ in North-East Nigeria.
“The outbreak occurs as ongoing violence and military efforts against insurgents in the region have displaced more than 1.7 million people and left over 3.6 million without adequate access to basic water services.
“An estimated 28 people have died from cholera, while 837 are suspected to have been infected with the disease, including at least 145 children under the age of five. The outbreak was first identified in the Muna Garage camp for the displaced in Maiduguri.
“The outbreak has spread to six other locations in the state. UNICEF and partners have rapidly scaled up their response to the cholera outbreak, as heavy rains multiply the risk of disease and malnutrition for conflict affected children,” Porter said.
UNICEF Deputy Representative in Nigeria, Pernille Ironside, explained that Cholera was difficult for young children to withstand at any time, but becomes a crisis for survival when their resilience was already weakened by malnutrition, malaria and other waterborne diseases.
“Cholera is one more threat among many that children in North-East Nigeria are battling today in order to survive,” Ironside said.
Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and even death if untreated. It is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio Cholerae.
SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES
Only around 1 in 20 cholera infections are severe, and a high percentage of infected people show no symptoms.
If symptoms appear, they will do so between 12 hours and 5 days after exposure. They range from mild or asymptomatic to severe.
They typically include:
• Large volumes of explosive watery diarrhea, sometimes called “rice water stools” because it can look like water that has been used to wash rice
• Leg cramps
A person with cholera can quickly lose fluids, up to 20 liters a day, so severe dehydration and shock can occur.
Signs of dehydration include:
• Loose skin
• Sunken eyes
• Dry mouth
• Decreased secretion, for example, less sweating
• Fast heart beat
• Low blood pressure
• Dizziness or light headedness
• Rapid weight loss
Shock can lead to collapse of the circulatory system. It is a life-threatening condition and a medical emergency.
A doctor may suspect cholera if a patient has severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, and rapid dehydration, especially if they have recently traveled to a place that has a recent history of cholera, or poor sanitation, or if they have recently consumed shellfish.
A stool sample will be sent to a laboratory for testing, but if cholera is suspected, the patient must begin treatment even before the results come back.
It is normally dehydration that leads to death from cholera, so the most important treatment is to give oral hydration solution (ORS), also known as oral rehydration therapy (ORT).
The treatment consists of large volumes of water mixed with a blend of sugar and salts.
Prepackaged mixtures are commercially available, but widespread distribution in developing countries is limited by cost, so homemade ORS recipes are often used, with common household ingredients.
Severe cases of cholera require intravenous fluid replacement. An adult weighing 70 kilograms will need at least 7 liters of intravenous fluids.
Antibiotics can shorten the duration of the illness, but the WHO does not recommend mass use of antibiotics for Cholera, because of the growing risk of bacterial resistance.
Anti-diarrheal medicines are not used because they prevent the bacteria from being flushed out of the body.
PREVENTING CHOLERA AND REDUCING RISK
Cholera is often spread through food and because of poor hygiene. Some simple measures can reduce the risk of contracting cholera.
Handwashing is important to prevent the spread of disease.
When traveling in areas where the disease is endemic, it is important to:
• Eat only fruit you have peeled
• Avoid salads, raw fish, and uncooked vegetables
• Ensure that food is thoroughly cooked
• Make sure water is bottled or boiled and safe to consume
• Avoid street food, as this can carry cholera and other diseases
Travelers should learn about cholera before visiting a country where it is prevalent.
Individuals should seek medical attention immediately if they experience symptoms such as leg cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea while in a community where the disease exists.