Analysis: JOSHUA BANDA
CASES of cholera have continued to increase from the time the first cases were reported. cholera eradication requires concerted efforts from all Zambians regardless of their geographical location. The outbreak of such a pandemic has the potential to slow down the growth of the economy because of the number of productive people disturbed due to infections.
Cholera is an acute diarrhoea illness caused by some strains of the bacterium vibrio cholerae. Usually the disease is spread when the bacteria is taken in by mouth mostly by eating cold food which is contaminated by dirty water, unclean hands or flies or water contaminated by human faeces. It is said that cholera can also be spread by eating fish from a contaminated river or waters.
The cholera organism has the characteristic of surviving long periods in water and ice. Signs and symptoms include sudden onset of painless watery diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting during the early stages of the illness. These eventually lead to dehydration. If left untreated, cholera may lead to death within hours. However, with simple treatment, full recovery can be achieved.
The disease is a danger to freedom of assembly. People may not be allowed to gather and worship together for fear of spreading the disease. It has the ability to lead to premature closure of schools thereby disturbing the academic calendar. At this critical period, all Zambians must be aware of basic cholera facts and the prevention methods.
The risk of contracting cholera is very low only if we follow the necessary health tips. Undoubtedly, if simple precautions are observed, contracting the disease is very unlikely.
You must boil water for drinking and store it safely in a clean, sealed and safe container. It must be covered at all time to avoid contamination. In the event that you are unable to boil the water, you can treat it chemically using chlorine. Always ensure that you use clean and safe water to brush your teeth and to wash food stuffs. If you intend to make ice blocks or ice cubes make sure that the water is clean or treated. Bottled water is also said to be safe for drinking and using it.
When you are washing fruits and vegetables, ensure that you use clean water and wash them thoroughly. When you are preparing food in the kitchen, ensure that all the kitchen ware or utensils are well cleaned with soap before use. Peel the fruits before eating. Cook and prepare the food so well. You must always remember to keep it covered. It is safe to serve the food when it is still hot.
Experts say that drinks and water which is sold in cups in markets may not be safe for drinking. You must also increase the frequency of washing your hands with soap.
Remember to always use the pit latrine to answer the call of nature. Markets have been equipped with ablution blocks at a minimal cost. These facilities must be put to good use as intended. Each time you use the latrine, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water. Should it happen that you are answering the call of nature in the bush, bury the faeces so that they cannot be accessed by flies which in turn can spread the disease to other areas thereby increasing the chances of spreading cholera to many parts of the country.
Avoid completely defecating in streams, rivers and dams or in any body of water. The same water which you are contaminating may be used by others for drinking and watering vegetables which are sold to the unsuspecting general public.
People with suspected cholera must immediately be excluded from work or school. This is more sensitive if one is a food handler as the disease may spread quickly. Suspected cholera patients are advised not to swim as they may contaminate the water.
Long distance travellers are reminded to be weary of what they eat as they travel. It is not an uncommon practice to replenish food supplies at every bus stop by the passengers. The food may be contaminated and cause diarrhoea and vomiting.
The general public is cautioned not to buy food from the streets as it may not be well kept.
Cholera is treated by immediately rehydrating the victim. That is the replacement of fluids and salts lost through diarrhoea. Oral rehydration is the most recommended way of fluid replacement in the body.
All the people are urged to acquire basic knowledge about cholera and help stop the escalating cases. Parents must prepare food for their children as they go to school to prevent children from buying food in the street until such a time when cholera is eradicated completely.
The author is the chairperson for Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) Zambia.
Analysis: JOSHUA BANDA