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Beware, cholera is in your city!

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Beware, cholera is in your city!

THE fresh cholera outbreak in Nigeria has provoked apprehensions, with Lagos being one of the affected states. Consequently, the National Biosafety Management Agency has called on the public to exercise extreme caution following reports of 30 deaths and 1,141 suspected cases across several states. It is time for individuals to deepen their hygiene practices while the government at all levels supports the victims.

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Cholera is raging in Bayelsa, Zamfara, Abia, Cross River, Bauchi, Delta, Katsina, Imo, Nasarawa, and Lagos. This is a sign that it might spread beyond the territories of these states.

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As the country approaches the festive period of Salah celebrations, Nigerians must understand the gravity of theoutbreak and take immediate preventive measures to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection caused by ingesting contaminated food or water.The bacteria, Vibrio cholerae, thrive in environments where sanitation is poor, and clean drinking water is scarce. Symptoms of cholera include severe diarrhoea, vomiting, and rapid dehydration, which can lead to death if not treated promptly.

According to the Global Task Force on Cholera Control, the disease afflicts the poor in underdeveloped countries the most. It has been eradicated in Europe and North America for more than 100 years. In Nigeria, there is a periodic outbreak of cholera, perhaps due to poverty and poor hygienic practices.

The World Health Organisation said there were cholera outbreaks in 23 countries in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean in 2021. The figure jumped to 29 in 2022.

The NBMA, in collaboration with health authorities, says it is actively monitoring the situation and implementing measures to contain the disease’s spread. However, individual and community actions are equally vital in combating this outbreak.

The Director-General of NBMA,Agnes Asagbra, had emphasised the need for carefulness and hygiene practices to prevent the spread of cholera.

Nigerians must ensure that all drinking water is boiled or purified using certified methods. Proper hand hygiene is paramount; washing hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating, preparing food, and after using the toilet can significantly reduce the risk of infection.

Food should be cooked thoroughly and consumed while hot, and raw foods like fruits and vegetables should only be eaten if they can be peeled or washed with safe water. If it is possible, avoid fruits that cannot be peeled for now.

Keeping the environment clean and disposing of waste properly are also essential steps in preventing contamination.

While individual actions are crucial, the government’s role in managing and mitigating the outbreak cannot be overstated.

All state governors, health commissioners, and relevant authorities should establish a robust health surveillance system to detect and respond to outbreaks swiftly. Public awareness campaigns should be intensified to educate the populace about cholera prevention and the importance of hygiene.

 

The government should ensure all communities have access to clean and safe drinking water by setting up emergency water purification stations in affected areas and improving existing water infrastructure. Water provision should be sustained all the year-round.

Healthcare facilities must have the necessary supplies and personnel to handle cholera cases. This includes rehydration solutions, antibiotics, and trained medical staff capable of managing outbreaks.

Collaboration with international health organisations can provide additional expertise, resources, and logistical support to contain the outbreak effectively.

No health commissioner should wait for deaths to occur before acting. Proactive measures must be implemented to prevent such tragedies. This includes timely interventions, transparent communication with the public, and ensuring that healthcare facilities are prepared to manage cholera cases.

The cholera outbreak in Lagos is a public health emergency that requires immediate and comprehensive action. The Lagos government can prevent further loss of life by adhering to hygiene practices, ensuring access to clean water, and maintaining a vigilant health surveillance system. That is the same for other state governments, whether the disease has broken out there or not.

Nigerians should heed the NBMA warning and take collective responsibility for their health and safety. Together, we can overcome this challenge and protect our communities from the scourge of cholera.

In this distress, it is crucial that citizens stay informed, and work together to make Nigeria a healthier place. The recent outbreak should serve as a wake-up call tohealth commissioners in all 36 states and governmental bodies.

It is not enough to issue statements after deaths have occurred. Proactive measures must be taken to prevent such tragedies. The health commissioners must lead by example, demonstrating a commitment to public health through timely interventions and transparent communication with the public.

This outbreak serves as a lesson to state governments to eradicate open defecation, a factor in cholera disease. The median on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway at the long intersection between Lagos and Ogun states is stained with excreta. In broad daylight, citizens defecate openly with impunity. The social deviancy is replicated across Nigeria. This is unacceptable.

People sell animals and food items in these dirty surroundings. This is an easy way to contract the disease. State governments should be serious and clamp down on the ugly menace. There should be punishment for those who defecate in public. The government at all levels should erect public toilet facilities with running water and ensure there is security for the users.

India, Nigeria, and Pakistan are the first three countries with the highest incidence of open defecation globally. The World Bank Open Data says 18.44 per cent of Nigerians practiced open defecation as of 2022. The document said Algeria and Sudan had eradicated it on the continent.

The cholera outbreak is a public health emergency that requires immediate and comprehensive action. By adhering to hygiene practices, ensuring access to clean water, and maintaining a vigilant health surveillance system, Nigeria can prevent further losses. Nigerians should heed the NBMA warning and take collective responsibility for their health and safety.

The fight against cholera is a collective responsibility. The government, health authorities, and citizens must all play their part. The time to act is now.

 

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