“Cholera vaccine gives indirect protection to unvaccinated people in communities where a substantial fraction of the population gets the vaccine,” according to a study from the island of Zanzibar in East Africa, published in the Lancet on Tuesday, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. “The effect is called ‘herd immunity,’” the blog notes. According to “Shots,” “half the people in six rural and urban areas received two doses of oral cholera vaccine,” and “[f]or those who got it, the vaccine was 79 percent protective against the disease” while “their neighbors who didn’t get vaccinated had almost as much protection.”
“Heavy rainfall is accelerating the spread of cholera in Sierra Leone and Guinea, where existing health risks such as poor hygiene practices, unsafe water sources and improper waste management are believed to have triggered the disease which has killed 327 people and infected more than 17,400 in both countries since February,” IRIN reports. “Prevalence is high in the congested slum areas in the capitals of Guinea and Sierra Leone, which have few clean toilets, and most people defecate in the open, often dangerously close to open wells, which are the source of water for most residents,” the news service writes (8/31). “Sierra Leone has been hit by its worst outbreak of the water-borne disease in nearly 15 years and cases are expected to peak at around 32,000 in September, the west African nation’s rainiest month, according to the World Health Organization,” Agence France-Presse notes, adding, “Neighboring Guinea has also been hard hit with 104 deaths and some 5,000 cases” (9/3).
Sudanese Refugee Camps See Improvement In Water, Food Provisions, But Concerns Remain Over Disease Threats, Overcrowding
“Aid agencies say water and food provision has improved in four camps housing more than 105,000 refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile State, but flooding, disease and an influx of additional refugees pose new threats,” IRIN reports, noting, “Sudan’s government forces and rebels have been fighting in Blue Nile State since September 2011, sending refugees south.” U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Emergency Health Coordinator Pilar Bauza “says refugees have suffered respiratory and diarrheal diseases, malaria and malnutrition from poor living conditions and nutrition,” the news service writes. “Health education campaigns, an increase in water provision from 10 to 13 liters per day, and a drop in malnutrition from 40 to 33 percent have improved the health of the refugees, but more needs to be done,” according to IRIN.
“Cuba’s government declared Tuesday that health workers had eradicated a cholera outbreak that infected 417 people and killed three, according to a statement from the country’s Health Ministry,” CNN reports (Oppmann, 8/28). The government said this year’s heavy rains and high temperatures raised the risk of waterborne diarrheal diseases, the Associated Press/Boston.com notes (8/28). The cholera outbreak began in Granma province’s Manzanillo, about 560 miles east of Havana, and the government said other cases “associated” with the outbreak occurred in other areas of the province, the neighboring provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo, and in the capital of Havana, according to EFE/Fox News Latino. “Despite the fact that it said the outbreak was ‘concluded,’ the Cuban government is also saying it will maintain its vigilance to avoid ‘the recurrence of new cases,’” the news service writes (8/28).
In this post in KPLU 88.5’s “Humanosphere” blog, journalist Tom Murphy interviews reporter Jonathan Katz, “the first to break the story connecting U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal to the” cholera outbreak in Haiti. According to the interview transcript, they discuss Katz’s original reporting, the humanitarian response to the outbreak, and the current state of the outbreak, among other topics (8/16).
Noting that several organizations recently have closed or consolidated their cholera treatment centers in Haiti, Jason Hayes with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting writes in an opinion analysis in the Huffington Post Blog, “In order to stop cholera, a water-borne illness, you need to change the ways people interact with water. It is no easy task.” Despite massive education campaigns to distribute information on how to prevent cholera, including hand washing and water treatment, and reports showing that “Haitians hungrily internalized the information,” “there is often an appalling gap between knowledge and action,” and the number of cases began to rise again in the early summer of 2011.
“The first case of cholera has emerged among thousands of people in an impromptu refugee camp in eastern Congo who fled fighting between a new rebel group and government forces backed by U.N. peacekeepers,” according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (Muhumuza, 8/3). The first case was detected on Friday, and since then at least nine people have died of the disease, MSF said, according to Al Jazeera (8/5).
“In April, Partners In Health [PIH] responded to Haiti’s cholera epidemic by providing oral vaccinations to 45,000 people living in the country’s Artibonite region — specifically, to two rice-farming communities hit hard by cholera,” Louise Ivers, senior health and policy adviser at PIH, reports in an article on the organization’s webpage. “In partnership with Haiti’s Ministry of Health, hundreds of community health workers fanned out across the rural, flood-prone area, delivering two doses to each person by the end of May,” she writes, and discusses the impact of the campaign (8/1).
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “warned on Friday that Haiti was struggling to cope with a cholera epidemic that has killed thousands and deteriorating conditions in tent camps as aid groups withdraw from the impoverished country due to a lack of funding,” Reuters reports. “In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban said there had been an increase in the number of cholera cases since the rainy season began in early March and the World Health Organization had projected there could be up to 112,000 cases during 2012,” the news service writes.
With nearly 6,000 reported cholera cases, including more than 100 deaths, Guinea is facing the worst cholera outbreak since 2007, and “some residents of the capital Conakry are clamoring to be vaccinated,” IRIN reports. “The cholera vaccine has shown promising results in the handful of communities where it has been used: none of those vaccinated have been infected,” the news service writes, noting, “For now cholera vaccination is not generally done on a large scale.” According to IRIN, “WHO and partner agencies are planning a cholera vaccine stockpile for epidemic control and looking at the possibility of introducing the two-dose oral vaccine into national immunization programs in endemic areas,” but the agency also “says such stockpiles should not detract from other prevention efforts: detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cases with oral rehydration and antibiotics; establishment of a safe water supply; implementation of adequate waste disposal, sanitation, and hygiene; and communication and social mobilization.”