As cholera cases continue to surge across the country, public and community health experts have advised that people should avoid roadside food, sea and raw food like fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of cholera.
This , according to them, is because the infection can be fatal, especially when the infected individual does not get earlier medical attention.
These medical experts advised that against the backdrop of this fresh epidemic, which has hit over 22 states with death toll put at 816 following its fatal infection rate, anyone who has a headache and had been stooling and vomiting for 16 hours should visit a medical facility.
While explaining that cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe dehydration, diarrhoea and it can lead to death, the experts said, the epidermic is caused by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae.
A food medical doctor, Mr Alphonsus Ntem revealed that , investigations so far carried out on victims has so far revealed that more than 80 per cent of the victims contracted the infections from eating food from roadside restaurants, sea and raw contaminated food as well as poor water sources should be checked.
Dr .Ntem who further revealed that raw and unpeeled fruits and vegetables are a frequent source of cholera infection in areas where the disease is endemic, added that uncomposted manure fertilisers or irrigation water containing raw sewage can contaminate produce in the field.
They added that eating raw or undercooked seafood, especially shellfish that originates from certain locations can expose one to cholera bacteria.
LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that the disease is prevalent in countries, states and regions were access to safe water is a challenge and good sewage treatment system is a luxury. It is also a disease of developing countries like Nigeria.
According to statistics by the World Health Organisation, of the three to five million cases of cholera infections recorded each year, only 10 cases occur in the United States and five of such cases are people who come from abroad.
They also urged chlorination of water source and stressed the need for people living in endemic communities to boil their water before drinking.
These precautions are necessary because cholera can be contracted through contaminated food, fruits, Vegetables and water, the experts hinted.
Cholera is a water-born disease caused by the bacterium vibrio cholera, it is an endemic and seasonal disease, occurring usually during the rainy season.
A public health consultant, Osas Ikpomosa, said symptoms of cholera include sudden acute watery diarrhoea in children and adults with or without vomiting, nausea and weakness.
He said cholera is highly contagious and in severe cases, can lead to death within hours.
Ikpomosa told LEADERSHIP Sunday that cholera is prevalent in communities where open defecation practice is common, with lack of clean water and poor hygiene practice.
He said this is because the bacteria is found in the stool of an infected person and spreads to other people when they consume water or food contaminated by stool from infected people.
The expert cautioned against eating roadside food during cholera outbreaks, saying it is very important that foods are well cooked and fruits and vegetables are properly washed with clean water.
He said, “Most roadside food are prepared under very poor environmental condition with poor personal hygiene. The food may not even be properly cooked and you don’t even know the source of the water they use in washing the dishes. Don’t forget also that open defecation is practiced in such environments. You can’t really guarantee that what you are eating is safe, so it is better to avoid it, especially during outbreak of cholera as it is presently.
The same goes for fruits. It is better to buy fruits that you can peel and wash yourself. Consuming fruits and vegetables without proper washing at this time is not ideal because you don’t know where they are coming from, he added.
A community health expert, Juliet Jonah, said Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is key to preventing cholera in communities, thus the need for relevant stakeholders to focus on social development.
She said the reason people use flood water, unclean water is mainly because they don’t have access to clean water and open defecation practice is due to poverty as many people in the community cannot provide toilets in their homes.
Mrs Jonah identified poor personal, environment hygiene, lack of infrastructure, illiteracy and poverty as major risk factors for cholera.
She stressed the need for people to be mindful of what they consume, saying it very easy for water and food to get contaminated when there is absence of WASH.
Water and Irrigation expert, Dr. Ben Adoyi , says the danger where people are left to source water on their own is that its quality may be compromised thereby increasing their chances of contracting diseases such as cholera.
Only water from government sources should be taken. ToThis is because it is the sole provider. If water comes from a controlled source, one can easily control the outbreak of water-borne disease.
“But when individuals are given the choice of where to get their water, they will weigh it from the economic point of view. Some may use contaminated water from river or streams without treating it.”
On it’s part, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has also cautioned Nigerians against improper waste disposal and eating of raw food like fruits and vegetables unless they are properly washed with clean water.
Though there are a lot interventions, the public health institute noted that none of the medical interventions will solve the underlying issues leading to cholera outbreaks.
Director-general of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said cholera is a waterborne disease, and the risk of transmission is higher when there is poor sanitation and disruption of clean water supply.
“The wrong disposal of refuse and practices such as open defecation endanger the safety of water used for drinking and personal use. These lead to the spread of water-borne diseases such as cholera. Without proper water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), Nigeria remains at risk of cholera cases and deaths.
“The long-term solution for cholera control lies in access to safe drinking water, maintenance of proper sanitation and hygiene,” he explained.
Ihekweazu said NCDC continue to advocate to state governments to prioritise action for solutions that ensure access to and use of safe water, basic sanitation and good hygiene practices in communities.
He also urged Nigerians to keep their environments clean, and only drink or use water that is boiled and or stored safely . He urged consumers to always ensure that food is cooked and stored in a clean and safe environment, avoid open defecation and wash their hands regularly with soap and running water.
He said though cholera is preventable and treatable, it can be deadly when people who are infected do not access care immediately.
“Nigerians are advised to visit a health facility immediately, if they have sudden onset of profuse watery diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, and weakness,” he urged.