Cholera epidemics

Cholera can spread very easily from person to person, because even a few bacteria are enough to cause the disease if the person is already vulnerable, e.g. due to malnutrition or other infections. Although about 75% of people infected with the bacteria do not develop any symptoms, they can still pass on the infection in their faeces for up to two weeks, so epidemics can develop very quickly.

Do you remember the definition of an epidemic?

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An epidemic is defined as a sudden rise in the number of cases of a condition, which go on increasing for weeks or months before being brought under control; sometimes the numbers affected in an epidemic can continue rising for years (e.g. HIV/AIDS).

Conditions leading to epidemics include the consumption of unsafe water, poor hygiene, poor sanitation and crowded living conditions. Cholera often follows after natural disasters involving flooding, and when large numbers of refugees live in camps. Consideration of these factors is important for the prevention and control of epidemics of cholera.

Cholera can spread quickly and cause epidemics in refugee camps

Cholera can spread quickly and cause epidemics in refugee camps, like this one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Photo: Ahu2, Wikimedia Commons)
Last modified: Wednesday, 9 July 2014, 6:52 PM