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Monday, July 15, 2024

INTERVIEW: Scientist Umeh Discusses the Hidden Threat of Cholera Infections

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There’s been a rise in cholera cases in Nigeria recently. A pharmacist, Umeh Camillus Chibueze, who is the CEO of Camillus Pharmaceuticals, says many people don’t even know they have cholera. He also believes the government could do more to stop it. In this chat with DAILY POST, he talks about the dangers of cholera, its causes, symptoms, how it spreads, and ways to prevent it. Here are the highlights:

What is cholera?

Cholera is a serious disease that causes very bad diarrhea, which can make you very dehydrated and can even lead to death if not treated. It happens when you eat or drink something contaminated with a germ called Vibrio cholerae.

Cholera is common in places with poor sanitation, overcrowded areas, conflict zones, and regions facing famine. The disease spreads through dirty hands, contaminated food like vegetables and fruits, and by drinking messy water from wells or taps.

Simply put, cholera spreads fast. People with cholera often have diarrhea and vomiting, leading to dehydration (lack of water in the body).

Is cholera driven by climate change?

No, cholera isn’t connected to climate change. Climate change involves things like solar radiation and the depletion of the ozone layer, often caused by cutting down trees. Cholera, on the other hand, is caused by germs in contaminated food and water. So, there’s no link between the two.

What causes cholera?

The germ causing cholera, Vibrio cholerae, is found in food or water contaminated by the feces of an infected person. Common sources include public water supplies, ice made from such water, food sold by street vendors, vegetables watered with dirty water, and raw or undercooked seafood.

If you eat or drink something contaminated with this germ, it releases a toxin in your intestines, causing severe diarrhea.

What are the symptoms of cholera?

Many people who come into contact with the cholera germ don’t get sick and may not know they are infected. However, they can still spread the germ through their poop for about a week to two weeks. When people do get sick, their symptoms can be mild to severe.

Diarrhea is a common symptom and can start suddenly, quickly causing the body to lose lots of fluids. Cholera-related diarrhea often looks pale and watery, like rice water.

Nausea and vomiting are also symptoms, especially in the early stages and can last for hours.

Dehydration is another symptom and can become severe within hours, with signs like irritability, tiredness, sunken eyes, dry mouth, extreme thirst, and dry skin that doesn’t bounce back when pinched. Severe dehydration can mean losing 10% or more of body weight.

Dehydration can cause an imbalance of minerals in the blood, which is very dangerous.

How long does it take for cholera symptoms to show?

If someone gets infected with the cholera germ, symptoms can show up from 12 hours to 5 days later. This time period is called the incubation period.

How can you care for a cholera patient safely?

Don’t share food with someone who has cholera. Wear gloves when helping them because you might come into contact with their poop. Also, avoid sharing drinks. Just make sure you protect yourself but don’t completely avoid the sick person. Also, consider wearing a mask, even though cholera is not airborne.

How can you prevent cholera?

There are many ways to prevent cholera:

  • Avoid tap and well water, raw food, and undercooked seafood.
  • Drink bottled or treated water, and eat prepackaged food from reputable places.
  • Disinfect water by boiling it for at least a minute before drinking it.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with clean water, and add salt if possible.

Cholera can be prevented if people wash their hands often with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and before handling food. Scrub your hands for at least 15 seconds before rinsing. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Drink only safe water, including bottled or boiled water. Use bottled water even to brush your teeth.

Hot beverages are safe, and canned or bottled drinks are fine, but wipe the outside before opening them. Don’t use ice unless you make it from safe water.

Eat fully cooked and hot food, and avoid street food if possible. If you do buy from a street vendor, make sure the food is cooked in your presence and served hot.

Stay away from raw or undercooked fish and seafood. Stick to fruits and vegetables that you peel yourself, like bananas, oranges, and avocados. Avoid salads and fruits that can’t be peeled, like grapes and berries.

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