Cholera is a common disease which spikes during the rainy season, with very high mortality rate. According to folklore, it is called the “Blue Death” because it usually leaves its victim’s skin bluish gray, owing to the extreme loss of fluids, before sending him or her to the grave within a short time.
Kaduna State Government, in its usual proactive style of leadership, is taking action to stop this “Blue Death”, which is currently plaguing over 20 states across Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory. Dr. Amina Mohammed-Baloni, the Commissioner of Health, who has been highly commended for how the Covid-19 pandemic was handled in Kaduna state, is leading the fight against cholera.
First reported in April 2021, where cases of vomiting and diarrhea were recorded in some local government areas, response teams have been tracking and monitoring cases in every nook and cranny of the state. In addition, a secondary health facility has been earmarked for proper management of the disease in each of the affected area councils. Drugs and chlorine, which are vital for the purification of water, have also been distributed by the state government in the worst hit areas.
The Nigeria Control Diseases Centre (NCDC), in a recent report, revealed that as of 15th August 2021, a total of 47,603 suspected cases including 1,768 deaths have been reported from 23 states and FCT. These numbers led to the activation of the National Cholera Emergency Operations Centre on 22nd June 2021. However, in spite of these measures, public health professionals have counseled that the causative factors need to be first addressed. Afterall, prevention is better than cure.
Cholera is a water-borne bacterial disease that causes sudden severe diarrhea, leading to dehydration, vomiting and fatigue. The bacterium is usually found in food or water contaminated by faeces of an infected person. In Nigeria, common causes of cholera are the lack of access to safe drinking water and poor personal and environmental hygiene.
In response to this, the Kaduna State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), has mapped out over 10,000 wells across the affected local governments, for access to clean water. In addition, health personnel have been preaching preventive measures, especially washing hands regularly with soap and water, before eating and after using the latrine or toilet. Food preparation areas and kitchen utensils should also be cleaned regularly with soap and clean water before and after use. At the community level, residents are being sensitized about the dangers of open defecation. In 2020, the KDSG declared a state of emergency on the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector, to enable the state to attain Open Defecation Free (ODF) status. In fact, as of May 2020, UNICEF had declared over 2000 communities in Kaduna state Open Defecation Free (ODF).
Apart from prevention, health officials have been advocating for prompt medical attention, where infection is suspected. Kaduna State Ministry of Health advises residents to take patients to the nearest healthcare facility, especially when they show symptoms of cholera.
As an interim measure, cholera can be managed through the timely administration of a simple sugar and salt solution called Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS). This therapy manages the acute dehydration through the replacement of lost fluids and electrolytes. This cost-effective and easily accessible therapy, entails mixing one litre of clean drinking water, six teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt. This home made therapy has saved millions of lives.
The combined efforts of observing environmental and personal hygiene, administering the salt and water solution of ORT on patients, and seeking prompt medical attention, will keep Blue Death at bay, if followed vigorously.