Ministry rings cholera alarm bell

As the rain season draws near, the ministry of health has advised Malawians to take precautionary measures against Cholera.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It has a short incubation period, from less than one day to five days, and produces an enterotoxin that causes a copious, painless, watery diarrhea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given. Vomiting also occurs in most patients.

In a public statement published on Tuesday, the ministry says all households, schools, institutions and individuals are encouraged to prevent outbreaks by treating drinking water with chlorine or water guard and that if these are not readily available, the water must be boiled.

Cholera is spread through infected water. Photo: AP

The ministry also advises that people should wash with soap after using the latrine or changing baby nappies; wash hands before food or eating; wash fruits and vegetables well before eating them; and cook food thoroughly and it while it is still hot.

“This is to inform the general public that with the start of the raining season, some districts are likely to be affected by cholera. The government is trying its best to prevent and control outbreaks, should it occur,” reads the statement in part.

The ministry says cholera spreads through poor hygiene practices such as eating a meal without washing hands; drinking water from unprotected sources; open defection due to the lack of latrines or failure to use the latrine in many households; and cooking and eating meals that are prepared under poor hygiene, among others.

According to the ministry, signs and symptoms of cholera include loose watery stools, frequent stooling, vomiting, dehydration and thirst, fatigue or weakness.

The ministry says that in the event that someone shows signs that have been highlighted, they must be adequately fed and immediately given pre-packaged oral rehydration fluid obtained from a health facility or give them home available fluids such as water treated with chlorine or water guard, water cooked from rice and watery porridge.

“If a person gets weaker, please rush them to the nearest health facility. If the person dies, please immediately report to your health worker and the nearest health facility,” the statement concludes.

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