As Nigeria continues to battle dreaded COVID-19 infections, particularly the Delta variant, a more deadly disease, Cholera, has taken over the scene with over 600 deaths recorded in the past few weeks across the country. This disease, if not swiftly contained, would result in the deaths of many Nigerians.
According to reports from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the disease has affected Niger, Plateau, Kaduna, Delta, Ogun, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Zamfara, Nasarawa, Gombe, Delta, Kogi, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Sokoto, Kano, Kebbi, Cross River states. The report added that of all suspected cases, 51% are males and 49% are females.
Conspicuously absent from the above list is Lagos state— Nigeria’s largest city and commercial hub. Health experts have forecast that Lagos may likely not escape the cholera outbreak already ravaging many states in the country, citing poor sanitation and blocked drainage canals that have become a common sight, making the state prone to an outbreak.
Ogun State, which shares boundaries with Lagos state, has, however, shut a market in Abeokuta, the capital city, for operating below public hygiene standards. The market, Iberekodo daily market was shut by the government to prevent the outbreak of infectious diseases, particularly cholera.
The NCDC report indicates that in the last two weeks of June, Zamfara had 191 cases, Bauchi 2163, Kano 891, Kaduna 129 and Plateau 82 cases. Since then, the number of cases and death toll have both risen and spread to more states. For instance, the FCT Minister of State, Dr Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, said fatalities from cholera in the FCT have risen to 60. So far, cholera has claimed 325 lives in six months with 14,343 suspected cases reported in 16 states.
In Nigeria, cholera is an endemic and seasonal disease, occurring annually mostly during the rainy season and more often in areas with poor sanitation, with the first series of cholera outbreaks reported between 1970 and 1990.
It has an incubation period of between two hours and five days, and is asymptomatic or mild in 80% of cases, with only about one in 10 infected people developing the typical signs and symptoms of cholera disease, usually within a few days of infection. Cholera is characterised by rapid onset of profuse watery diarrhoea (rice water stools), with or without vomiting. It is usually not associated with fever and is highly contagious. Severe cases can lead to death within hours due to dehydration.
It is against this background that Information Nigeria advises the Nigerian government to act swiftly by responding to the Cholera disease outbreak ravaging the country. The government must — through the general hospitals and primary health care centres— make necessary drugs available and also provide adequate personnel to treat and take care of infected persons.
The Buhari-led government must work towards creating access to safe drinking water and sanitation; improving surveillance, reporting and readiness; and community engagement to raise awareness and promote good hygiene practices.
READ ALSO: 479 Killed As Cholera Spreads To 18 States
The Ministry of Health and the NCDC must ensure regular health education to citizens during and after outbreaks. The teams that manage outbreaks at the local, state and federal government levels must endeavour to create massive public enlightenment campaigns to educate Nigerians on environmental and personal hygiene measures.
The value of basic hygiene such as hand washing, drinking clean water and keeping homes and surroundings clean must be strongly highlighted. The teams must also speedily when notified of a cholera outbreak in any part of the country. Anti-cholera vaccines should be made available in all government hospitals — in large quantities.
We urge the general public to keep their environments clean, only drink or use water that is boiled and stored safely; ensure food is cooked and stored in a clean and safe environment; avoid open defecation and wash their hands regularly. It is far cheaper to prevent cholera than treat infected persons or contain its spread.