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World Health Organization Urges Immediate Action Amid Cholera Vaccine Shortage


The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for immediate action to combat a worldwide spike in cholera cases amid a global vaccine shortage.

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An acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with Vibrio cholerae bacteria, people can get sick with cholera after consuming contaminated food or water. Primarily affecting areas with inadequate access to safe water and basic sanitation, cholera is essentially a disease of poverty and can kill within hours if left untreated. Estimates suggest there are between 1.3 and 4.0 million cases worldwide each year, and 21,000 to 143,000 deaths.

With Southern and Eastern Africa currently fighting a protracted cholera outbreak affecting more than 16 countries, global stocks of vaccines for combatting the spread of the infection have essentially run out. The outbreak is particularly severe in Zimbabwe, where there has already been over 25,000 cases and 470 deaths. Water shortages and poor sanitation systems are commonplace in Zimbabwe, a situation which is inevitably fueling the problem.

While these challenges can be overcome, eradicating cholera in Africa will take much more than simply increasing the availability of vaccines. To learn how paying proper attention to nutrition could go a long way towards reducing the death toll, see this article on our website.