Cholera is an acute stomach and digestive system infection caused by drinking water or eating food contaminated by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. In its most severe form, Cholera is characterized by a sudden onset of acute watery diarrhoea that can lead to death by severe dehydration. With the outbreak in parts of Harare, and rapidly spreading around the country here are five tips that can help you and family avoid becoming infected with Cholera:
Drink and use SAFE water
To be sure water is safe to drink and use:
Boil it or treat it with a chlorine product or household bleach.
If boiling, bring your water to a complete boil for at least 1 minute.
To treat your water with chlorine use an available treat product being distributed by NGOs. These may also be available at your nearest municipal clinic. If a chlorine tratment product is not available, you can treat your water with household bleach such as Jik. Add 2 drops of household bleech for every 1 litre of water, and wait 30 minutes before drinking. Always store your water in a clean, covered container.
Reports say that even water from boreholes may be contaminated, this should also be boiled or treated with chlorine.
2. Wash your hands often with soap and safe water
- Before you eat or prepare food
- Before feeding your children
- After using the latrine or toilet
- After cleaning your child’s bottom
- After taking care of someone ill with diarrhea
* If no soap is available, scrub hands often with ash or sand and rinse with safe water.
3. Cook food well, keep it covered, eat it hot, and peel fruits and vegetables
Boil it, Cook it, Peel it, or Leave it. Avoid raw foods other than fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself.
4. Clean up safely – in the kitchen and in places where the family bathes and wash clothes
Wash yourself, your children, diapers, and clothes, 30 meters (98 feet) away from water sources.
If you suspect you may be infected visit your nearest clinic or hospital immediately.
Cholera requires immediate treatment because the disease can cause death within hours.
Rehydration. The goal is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes using a simple rehydration solution, oral rehydration salts (ORS). The ORS solution is available as a powder that can be reconstituted in boiled or bottled water. Without rehydration, approximately half the people with cholera die. With treatment, the number of fatalities drops to less than 1 percent.
If no oral rehydration solutions are available, you can make your own by combining 1 quart (about 1 liter) of bottled or boiled water with 6 level teaspoons (about 30 milliliters) of table sugar and 1/2 level teaspoon (about 2.5 milliliters) of table salt.
Intravenous fluids. During a cholera epidemic, most people can be helped by oral rehydration alone, but severely dehydrated people may also need intravenous fluids.
Antibiotics. While antibiotics are not a necessary part of cholera treatment, some of these drugs may reduce both the amount and duration of cholera-related diarrhea for people who are severely ill.
Zinc supplements. Research has shown that zinc may decrease and shorten the duration of diarrhea in children with cholera.