What you should know about cholera

Borno State recently witnessed a cholera outbreak. Other parts of the country have continued to witness outbreaks from time to time. This underscores the need for members of the public to know how to protect themselves from the disease.

According to Dr. Saleh Abba, a family physician and Chief Executive Officer of  Smile Mission Healthcare (SMHC), a non-governmental organisation, cholera is an acute or sudden watery diarrhoea which occurs as a result of infection by a bacteria called ‘vibrio cholerae’


He said it is a water-borne disease transmitted via ingestion of contaminated food or water, commonly found in unhygienic environment, crowded areas such as camps, disaster ridden community and poor socioeconomic environment, among others.

Findings reveal that the onset of the raining season and contamination of water sources especially in areas where people engage in open defecation, and open refuse-dump have contributed significantly to the current outbreaks.


In Borno State for instance, reports of cholera had manifested since August 19 and on September 5, the state Ministry of Health declared a cholera outbreak.

As at  5th September, 380 cases of suspected cholera have been reported with 14 deaths. However, over 250 cases have been treated and discharged.

Last weekend the  United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement that the number of suspected cholera cases  has increased from 380 to  680 cases  in eight local government areas  of the state. It said the death toll has also increased to 18 persons.

Comprehensive response to the outbreaks is at the moment concentrated in Maidinatu, Elmuskin  displaced persons camps and Bolori ward in Maiduguri and the suburbs.

The affected local government areas are: Kaga, Magumeri, Maiduguri Metropolis, Chibok, Damboa, Shani and Jere.

Old Maiduguri general area is also affected by cholera due to lack of drainages, unhygienic facilities and poor sanitation.

Falimata Bukar, a resident of Elmuskin Internally Displaced Persons camp who just recovered from the disease said the camp and its environs are dirty.

“It started with acute watery diarrhoea but two days later, I was rushed to Dala treatment centre. I was discharged after spending four days there.

“I didn’t know initially that it was through contaminated water that I got cholera; many were affected in Old Maiduguri general area,” she said.

Dr. Saleh Abba, said the symptoms of cholera include:

-Passage of profuse pale and milky, watery stool (rice water coloured).

-Body weakness.

-Intense thirst and decrease in urine quantity.

-With or without abdominal pain.

-Nausea and vomiting.

-With or without fever.

-Dehydration which can lead to shock, kidney injury and sudden death

-Many affected persons may not manifest symptoms or may develop milder form of the disease but will still remain carriers spreading the disease.

-Untreated cholera patient may lose 10-20 litres of water per day with high mortality outcome.

“The bacteria has an incubation period of up to five days and in many cases the affected persons may not show any symptoms,” he said.

The physician said cholera could be prevented through hygiene practices like clean and safe drinking water, proper sanitation, and health education and awareness.

He said others include improvement of socioeconomic status of citizens, adding that “there is a vaccine but it is not popular and cannot replace hygiene in preventing cholera.”

He added that treatment for cholera is basically hydration through the use of oral rehydration solutions and intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

Over 700 households received hygiene related items donated by Smile Mission Health Care (SMHC), in collaboration with Gongoni Company Nigeria Limited during the sensitization exercise it held on the cholera outbreak in Maiduguri.

People still have myths surrounding the disease, Dr Abba said, such as seeing it as anger from the gods; brought by foreigners; and bad air to mention a few.

There is also still poor reporting of cholera cases and outbreaks because significant outputs are not being recorded from a lot of funds budgeted and disbursed on health and hygiene, according to some sources.


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