Lebanon cholera update, WHO Regional Director’s statement on cholera outbreaks
by NewsDesk Lord save her
The Lebanese Ministry of Health reported in an update today that the cholera outbreak that began in early October has expanded to 2,709 (suspected and confirmed) cholera cases, including 436 confirmed cases.
The death toll from cholera is now 18.
WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari issued a statement On cholera last week:
After decades of not having a single case of cholera, the recently reported outbreaks in Lebanon and Syria represent an unwelcome return in these two countries. In fact, this is part of a pattern that is getting worse across the region and the world, with 8 out of 22 countries in our region struggling with outbreaks of cholera and acute watery diarrhoea.
Furthermore, there are now 29 cholera outbreaks worldwide – the highest number on record. We know that cholera can cross borders, putting neighboring countries at increased risk and increasing the need for urgent control. This is a wake-up call for all of us.
Cholera can spread rapidly in our region, driven by multiple complex humanitarian and health emergencies, protracted conflicts, poor water and sanitation infrastructure, and deteriorating economic conditions.
In addition, climate change has contributed to the resurgence of cholera, and we see this evidence in many countries that have experienced extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes. Droughts, which are becoming increasingly common throughout our region, reduce access to clean water and create the perfect environment for the spread of cholera.
We shouldn’t have cholera outbreaks in our region in the 21st century, and certainly, people shouldn’t die from it. Access to clean water and adequate sanitation facilities must be available to all and is a fundamental human right.
Most of the countries affected by cholera outbreaks in the Region are those with poor water and sanitation infrastructure with no major investments in recent years. Water scarcity – again due to drought – is another contributing factor.
A well-coordinated and timely response among all stakeholders is urgently needed to quickly control the outbreak and limit further spread of cases and deaths within the affected countries and in neighboring countries.
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This response should focus on improving access to clean water and adequate sanitation and personal hygiene, increasing intensified awareness and community participation, and enhancing early warning monitoring to detect cases quickly and respond effectively.
Good clinical management of patients is essential to reduce mortality – cholera is a highly preventable and treatable disease. WHO works with ministries of health and partners in all these areas.
Outbreaks of cholera in the Region and around the world have led to a severe shortage of cholera vaccine. As a result, the International Coordinating Group on Vaccines – which manages the global stockpile of cholera vaccine – is temporarily suspending the standard two-dose vaccination regimen for cholera outbreak response campaigns, adopting a single-dose approach instead.
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Using a single-dose strategy allows more people to be vaccinated and provides protection in the short term.
Oral cholera vaccination campaigns are planned in both Lebanon and Syria in the coming weeks, while Pakistan recently conducted campaigns before and after the recent floods.
While vaccines are a critical tool, they are not the main intervention to control cholera. Cholera is primarily prevented through access to safe water and sanitation and can be easily treated with an oral rehydration solution. Most patients do not need to be hospitalized. Antibiotics are reserved for more severe cases.
Cholera can kill, but it is preventable. Let us not allow the hard-earned public health gains of past decades to be eroded by people’s lack of access to simple interventions.