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Thursday, December 2, 2010


The health ministry yesterday placed the nation on a cholera alert in light of a major outbreak of the disease in Haiti and the conditions imposed on us by the passage by Tomas. Against that background, the editorial staff of Choiseul Powerhouse thought it was timely to educate our followers on what to expect in the event of an outbreak.

What is Cholera?
Cholera is malady of the small intestine which is caused by a certain type of bacteria. The chief symptoms are plenty of watery diarrhea and also vomiting.  It can be transmitted by consuming contaminated drinking water or food. The diarrhea and vomiting can cause rapid dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. It can be treated by oral re-hydration solution and if these do not work, the patient can be administered with intravenous fluids. Antibiotics may be administered to patients with severe infection.

How do you know that you have cholera?
The main symptoms of cholera are profuse painless diarrhea and vomiting of clear fluid. These symptoms usually start abruptly, one to five days after the intake of the bacteria into the body. The diarrhea may have a fishy odor.  

PAHO estimates that 75% of people infected with cholera do not show symptoms; but they can drop the bacteria back into the environment for up to two weeks after infection, potentially infecting others. However, other online sources contend that for every person who exhibits the symptoms, there are 3 - 100 people who get the infection but do not show any symptoms. The risk is especially high in places with poor sanitation.

An untreated person with cholera may produce 2.5-5 US gallons of diarrhea a day.

If the severe diarrhea and vomiting are not a treated with urgency they can, within hours, result in dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. The symptoms of dehydration include thirst, loss of appetite, dry skin, skin flushing, dark-coloured urine, dry mouth, fatigue, chills and head rushes, low blood pressure, poor skin turgor (wrinkled hands), sunken eyes, and a rapid pulse.

How to prevent cholera
Here are a few tips on how to prevent cholera:

·  Drink only water that you know is boiled, chlorine or iodine treated. Tea and coffee must contain this same treated water. Soft drinks and other carbonated bottled drinks are okay as long as you avoid ice.
·  Eat foods and vegetables, which are cooked thoroughly and still hot. Eat only fruit you peeled yourself. Avoid raw, uncooked salads and any food that's been washed with untreated water.
·  Stay away from raw or undercooked fish or seafood. Consume food and drink from restaurants or hotels, being careful to avoid street vendors.
·  Bring no food possibly contaminated back into the country, including perishable seafood or raw fruit or vegetables.

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