Zambia Plans to Vaccinate 1 Million People to Fight Cholera Outbreak

Zambia has announced a mass-vaccination program as the nation aims to stop the spread of a deadly cholera outbreak.

Zambia is no novice to cholera, as outbreaks occur annually. However, since October 4, 2017, the Ministry of Health has recorded 2,672 cholera cases, the majority of those in Zambia’s capital city Lusaka. Nationwide, there have been 63 deaths, 58 of which have occurred in Lusaka itself.

To combat this, two million doses of the oral cholera vaccine have been delivered to Zambia from the global stockpile. This will be enough to immunize 1 million people, targeting cholera hot spots in order to drive down the infection risk.

According to a news release from the World Health Organization, the Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya explained:

Communities should not ignore basic preventative measures because the key drivers of this epidemic include consumption of contaminated water and food, poor waste management, and poor personal hygiene practices which have to change.

WHO is coordinating with the Zambia National Public Health Institute to track cases, deploy treatment initiatives and help with public outreach and education.

“Zambia is experiencing one of the worst outbreaks of cholera in years,” Dr. Nathan Bakyaita, WHO representative to Zambia, stated. “With this campaign, we can stop cholera in its tracks and prevent an even more devastating epidemic.”

What caused this outbreak?

Cholera, an acute infection of the small intestine that may cause diarrhea, vomiting and muscle cramps, is an infection spread via contaminated water — usually as a result of an unsecured drinking water supply. 

At this time, the precise cause of the outbreak is unclear. Reports suggest that the primary infection was the result of contaminated water extracted from shallow wells, but investigators are also reviewing whether contaminated food may have also been to blame. Improperly washed vegetables or vegetables washed in contaminated water may pose a cholera risk.

People who are infected by cholera may show only mild symptoms, but others can develop serious dehydration as a result of the illness. When that happens, between 25 to 50 percent can die if they are not treated in time.

Stopping cholera in its tracks

The deployment of the cholera vaccine signals that the outbreak is now sufficiently concerning to need special intervention.

The oral cholera vaccine works by giving recipients a small — and safe — dose of the bacteria. A recipient’s immune system can then recognize the bacteria, granting that individual greater protection when encountering a live version.

However, the World Health Organization advocates a broad approach to treating and preventing cholera, something that Zambia fully supports.

For example, the Zambian government has temporarily banned meetings — including church services — in high-risk areas. Officials also announced restrictions on general movement and closed certain markets and food outlets.

Health agencies are said to be monitoring travelers between South African states to try to prevent the infection from spreading. Meanwhile, early indications suggest that the WHO-sponsored government intervention program is working and that infection rates are slowing.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

28 comments

Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

thank you for sharing

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Ann B
Ann B6 months ago

with all our modern technology we should not have this disease on any continent

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Peggy B
Peggy B7 months ago

Hope it works. Meanwhile, Trump should visit and mix with the sick people.

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Jetana A
Jetana A7 months ago

I hope they'll also work toward clean water for everyone, and educate people about hygiene.

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Marija M
Marija M7 months ago

about time...

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R7 months ago

I agree Sue H. ...

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Ruth R
Ruth R7 months ago

Thank You! Very awesome. I am sure those people are glad to be alive and whole.

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Lenore K
Lenore K7 months ago

ok

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Anne K
Anne K7 months ago

Thanks for posting this article.

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Anne Moran
Anne Moran7 months ago

One less thing the West has to worry about,,, for now... - Our water isn't exactly pristine either,, with all the pollution, natural and man-made disasters.. - Better watch out,, as it could very well happen here one day...

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