Cholera Epidemic in Yemen Reaches Crisis Level

BY ALLISON KOZICHAROW AND BERNICE BORN

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emen is in the grip of an unprecedented cholera epidemic that is killing one person nearly every hour, according to a recent ABC news report. UNICEF stated this week that the cholera outbreak has now reached more than 124,000 cases. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that almost half of these cases are among the nation’s most vulnerable populations — children.

 

Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused when the intestine is infected by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae after contaminated water or food is ingested. The majority of people with cholera can be treated successfully through prompt administration of a simple remedy called oral rehydration solution or ORS. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

 

WiRED International launched a health education module on cholera in English, French and Spanish in a rapid response to a similar outbreak in Haiti following Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The Cholera Module presents a general introduction to the disease and its prevention, transmission, symptoms, treatment and complications. The WiRED program also contains a technical section designed for medical professionals that gives them information about cholera treatment and vaccines.

 

WiRED will include the cholera module, along with dozens of modules on other infectious diseases, in an infectious disease program soon to be released online. The series, which is designed for communities, is called, “How to Prepare for and Deal with Infectious Outbreaks.” It offers an interactive program that trains individuals according to their roles in the community and the kinds of infections the community faces.

 

Cholera is all but extinct in industrialized countries. Malnutrition, political conflict, war, famine and natural disasters lead swiftly to cholera outbreaks in vulnerable areas. Refugee camps in particular present ideal conditions for the development of cholera. Until basic services, a clean water supply and safe food practices are restored, people in places such as Yemen will continue to fall victim to diseases such as cholera.

 

Although cholera vaccines are fairly effective, a global short supply and the isolation of underserved communities mean that health and medical education remain key to preventing the spread of this infectious disease.

 

 

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