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Cholera: Hygiene will keep the enemy at bay

By Vision Reporter

Added 11th October 2009 03:00 AM

THREE people have died since cholera was reported in Kampala last week. By press time, 19 people had been treated, eight of whom were at the isolation unit at Mulago Hospital. Health officials are appealing to the public to maintain hygiene to curb the di

THREE people have died since cholera was reported in Kampala last week. By press time, 19 people had been treated, eight of whom were at the isolation unit at Mulago Hospital. Health officials are appealing to the public to maintain hygiene to curb the di

By Irene Nabusoba

THREE people have died since cholera was reported in Kampala last week. By press time, 19 people had been treated, eight of whom were at the isolation unit at Mulago Hospital. Health officials are appealing to the public to maintain hygiene to curb the disease.

Cholera, an acute illness that presents with excessive watery diarrhoea plus vomiting, can lead to death within three to four hours after infection, if not treated quickly. It is common during the rainy season and in communities with poor sanitation.

Cholera is caused by germs spread through faeces or vomit of an infected person, leading to rapid dehydration from loss of water and salts from the body.

“A person gets cholera from drinking water, juice and other fluids, or eating food which is contaminated with cholera germs,” Joseph Ssenzoga, a city council health official, says.

Drinking untreated or unboiled water from a water source and unprotected streams; eating cold or left-over food exposed to dust, flies and cockroaches; eating unwashed foods and vegetables and not washing hands with soap and clean water after using the toilet also spread the disease.

Ssenzoga attributes the outbreak to lack of toilets, poor drainage and garbage collection.

He says they have emptied public latrines on raised areas of the affected wetlands and the public can use them because they are free.

The affected suburbs like Namuwongo and Kisugu are located in wetlands with poor disposal of human waste because of no pit latrines.

He says they have not mapped the area to see how many people have latrines. Due to a cost of sh100 for every visit to a latrine, people have resorted to using plastic bags and throwing them in drainage channels.

The few available pit latrines were not dug deep enough because of the swampy soils, bringing the waste back into circulation.

“We are dealing with dirty environments because when we talk about cholera, we are talking about eating faeces,” Ssenzoga says.

“We are setting up garbage collection centres to be manned by the affected divisions,” Ssenzoga says.

Victims of cholera often present with frequent passing of excessive amounts of watery stool, vomiting, general body weakness, constant thirst and eventually, they stop urinating due to reduced body fluids.

Once a person develops these signs and symptoms, immediately give him oral re-hydration salts or fluids.

Tips
Boil drinking water, store it in a clean container and cover to keep germs away.

Pour water into a cup or glass rather than dipping a container in a pot or saucepan because you may contaminate the water.

Wash your hands with soap and clean water after using the toilet and before eating. Dispose of faeces in a latrine.

Eat food when still hot.
Foods eaten raw such as fruits and vegetables should first be washed and peeled.

Report cholera-related deaths or symptoms to the nearest health worker.

Avoid eating at burials.
Use germ-killing solutions on stool, or materials used by a person suffering from cholera.

Cholera: Hygiene will keep the enemy at bay

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