While there is a (rightfully) well-publicised Ebola outbreak taking place in West Africa, it doesn’t mean that the usual suspects of the infectious diseases world have gone away. And while the world’s attention is focused on that pesky haemorrhagic fever virus, cholera has been going about its usual business in Nigeria, Ghana and South Sudan.
It’s a reminder that while the “superstar diseases” are widely and enthusiastically reported by the First World’s sensationalist media (like the bubonic plague case (singular) in China that I mentioned last week), the more mundane stuff continues, but goes very much under the radar.
Cholera is unpleasant, acute and life-threatening, especially in children. It’s also fairly simple to prevent, assuming that you can get access to clean water:
“It is the filth everywhere and the lack of hygiene among our people,” the Deputy Director of Health for the Greater Accra Region, Dr John Eleaza said, noting that some patients have been victims of the disease despite using pipe-borne water.
Unfortunately we have some of our pipelines going through some of these drains…some of them are broken” he said.
He is advising Ghanaians to be careful and practise proper hygiene to prevent a deterioration of the outbreak.
And while the mortality rate doesn’t rival that of Ebola, the sheer numbers affected mean that the death toll in these outbreaks is already rapidly approaching (if not exceeding) that of their more famous cousin up the road.
Even the local media is more concerned with the Ebola outbreak than that of cholera, as this story in Nigeria’s Vanguard demonstrates, with nearly half the piece being hijacked by Ebola news, including this spectacular advice from State Commissioner for Health Dr. Joe Akabike:
…avoid touching corpses of victims of the disease and to avoid sexual intercourse with patients of the disease until after three months of their recovery in order not to contact the disease.
He doesn’t mention avoiding sexual intercourse with the corpses, but I suppose that’s just considered common sense.
And common decency.
I digress. All I wanted to remind people is that the Ebola outbreak should be considered an additional problem, and not suddenly the only problem in sub-Saharan Africa.