HealthWellbeing & Leisure

Cholera Outbreak in Nigeria: Authorities Urge Vigilance and Preventive Measures

Nigeria is grappling with a severe cholera outbreak that has claimed numerous lives and left hundreds hospitalised. The outbreak, which has significantly impacted Lagos State, is exacerbating public health challenges in a country already facing numerous health crises.

As of mid-June 2024, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported 1,141 suspected cholera cases, with 65 confirmed and 30 deaths nationwide since January.

The Situation So Far

In Lagos State, one of the most densely populated areas in Nigeria, the outbreak has been particularly devastating. Fifteen people have so far succumbed to the disease in the state, and over 60 were hospitalised, mostly due to severe dehydration from late presentation. The affected areas include Eti Osa, Lagos Island, Ikorodu, and Kosofe LGAs, which are struggling with inadequate water treatment and sanitation facilities.

Professor Akin Abayomi, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, emphasised that the outbreak likely stemmed from contaminated water sources, especially following recent heavy rains. The rains have worsened sanitary conditions in urban slums and overcrowded areas, increasing the risk of disease spread​.

Health Authorities’ Response

The Lagos State Government has activated a statewide heightened surveillance and response plan. The Directorate of Environmental Health and the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) have been mobilised to identify and mitigate sources of water contamination.

The NCDC, in collaboration with local health authorities, is intensifying efforts to contain the outbreak, focusing on improving water quality, sanitation, and hygiene practices.

Symptoms and Transmission

Cholera, caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, is a highly contagious disease that spreads through contaminated food and water. It is characterised by severe watery diarrhoea, vomiting, rapid dehydration, muscle cramps, and sometimes fever and collapse. The disease can be fatal within hours if not treated promptly due to the rapid loss of body fluids and electrolytes.

Also read: High salt intake in Nigeria: A silent threat to cardiovascular health – Minister

Preventive Measures

Health experts have emphasised the importance of preventive measures to curb the spread of cholera and stop the cholera outbreak in Nigeria. Key recommendations include:

  1. Ensuring Safe Drinking Water: Boil water before drinking, use water purification tablets, or drink bottled water. Avoid consuming ice made from untreated water.
  2. Proper Sanitation: Use toilets and properly dispose of faeces. Avoid open defecation, which can contaminate water sources.
  3. Hand Hygiene: Wash hands frequently with soap and clean running water, especially before eating, preparing food, and after using the toilet. Hand sanitisers can be used when soap and water are unavailable.
  4. Food Safety: Ensure food is well-cooked and reheat leftovers thoroughly before consumption. Protect food and water from flies and unsanitary handling.
  5. Prompt Medical Attention: Seek immediate medical care if symptoms of cholera appear. Early administration of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) can save lives by preventing severe dehydration. Intravenous fluids may be necessary for severely dehydrated patients.

Expert Advice

Dr Jide Idris, Director General of the NCDC, reiterated the importance of community awareness and education in preventing cholera outbreaks. He stressed that access to clean water and proper sanitation are critical in combating the disease. The NCDC is working with international partners to enhance public health infrastructure and ensure the availability of medical supplies and treatments​.

Also read: It’s Not a Nuclear War but the COVID-19 Outbreak Feels Like It

UNICEF has also raised concerns about the vulnerability of under-five children to cholera, urging immediate measures to provide safe drinking water and sanitation facilities in affected regions. The organisation has called for a coordinated effort to improve hygiene practices and strengthen healthcare systems to manage and prevent future outbreaks.

Moving Forward

The Nigerian government, through the NCDC and local health departments, continues to monitor the situation closely. Authorities are urging residents to adhere to preventive measures and report any suspected cases promptly. Public health campaigns are being intensified to educate communities about cholera prevention and control.

As the rainy season progresses, the risk of cholera outbreaks remains high. Continuous efforts to improve water quality, sanitation, and hygiene are essential to protect public health and prevent the spread of this deadly disease.

The commitment of government bodies, healthcare professionals, and the public will be crucial in overcoming this cholera outbreak in Nigeria, which has become a public health challenge, and safeguarding the well-being of Nigerian citizens.

Samuel Bolaji

Samuel Bolaji holds a Master of Letters in Publishing Studies from the University of Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He is an experienced researcher, multimedia journalist, writer, and Editor. He is currently the Editor of Arbiterz.

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