By Sola Ogundipe
FOLLOWING reports about a suspected outbreak of cholera in some parts of the north, all States in the affected region may have been put on alert by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
The Agency said it was mobilising Federal and State Ministries of Health across the Federation towards providing emergency medical assistance to communities affected by the reported outbreak of the epidemic as a way of avoiding its spread to neighboring States.
It also called on state governments, especially in the Northern part of the country, to take proactive measures to stem the spread of the disease which has reportedly claimed some lives in Adamawa State.
The Agencyâ€™s Head of Press and Public Relations, Yushau Shuaib, disclosed in a release that the mobilisation is sequel to a directive by the Director General of NEMA, AVM Mohammed Audu-Bida (rtd) following reports of cholera fatalities from the disease from the North-East Coordinator of NEMA, Mr. Aliyu Sambo in his office.
However, a Federal Ministry of Health source in Abuja told Good Health Weekly that there was yet to be confirmation that the suspected outbreak of ill health was cholera. â€œWe have a strong suspicion it was an outbreak of gastroenteritis. Health officials from the Federal and State Ministries have stepped in and the situation is under control, but we are watching developments,â€ noted the source.
But Audu-Bida was quoted as saying State governments, especially in the Northern part of the country, needed to adopt sensitive surveillance and prompt reporting of any case to relevant institution to contain the spread of the disease, particularly during the month of Ramadan.
Other parts of the country are not immune from the threat of the epidemic, especially during the rainy period as the disease exists annually as a seasonal epidemic in some countries mostly during rainy seasons.
He said it is important for all States to be on alert and embark on the disease surveillance for early detection and response. In doing this, necessary medical facilities should be mobilised and readied for deployment on short notice. Public enlightenment on the threat of the epidemic and, indeed other diseases should also be carried out at the grassroots with special focus on the prevention, identification and response.
NEMA Zonal Coordinator North-East, Mr. Aliyu Sambo was quoted as saying casualities were recorded in Maiha, Fufore and Demsa Local Government Councils of Adamawa State. But the spread was being contained at the time of this report, with NEMA mounting surveillance in neighboring states.
â€œCholera is infectious disease that affects the digestive system and causes abnormal watery visits to the toilet and vomiting. It is a contagious disease that is usually spread through unhealthy environment with the causal organism easily transported from one infected person to another. â€œ
The epidemic is preventable through cleanliness when environments are properly kept and food hygienically prepared and taken. But under the present circumstance, affected communities are strongly advised to report any suspected cases of the disease condition for early diagnosis and treatment as health officials have been mobilized for that purposes.
Cholera is infectious gastroenteritis caused by enterotoxin – producing strains of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Transmission to humans occurs through eating food or drinking water contaminated with vibrio cholerae from other cholera patients.
Major reservoir for cholera was long assumed to be humans themselves, but considerable evidence exists that aquatic environment can serve as reservoirs of the bacteria. In its most severe forms, cholera is one of the most rapidly fatal illnesses known and infected patients may die within three hours if medical treatment is not provided. In a common scenario, the disease progresses from the first liquid stool to shock in four to 12 hours, with death following in 18 hours to several days, unless oral rehydration therapy is provided.