UN health agency scaling up response to Sierra Leone cholera outbreak

Cholera patients learn about sanitation from health workers. Photo: IRIN/Nancy Palus

18 September 2012 – Efforts to respond to the ongoing cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone are being ramped up as fatalities from the water and food-borne disease continue to increase, the United Nations health agency today reported.

In a press statement, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that the total number of reported cases had reached 18,508, including 271 deaths, since the beginning of 2012, with the highest cluster of infections occurring in the western area of the country where the capital, Freetown, is located.

WHO and its partners are working in close coordination with the Government to step up their response to the outbreak and support field-level activities such as case management; communication and social mobilization; water, sanitation and hygiene promotion; and surveillance and data management.

It also noted that particular emphasis was being placed on the early detection of cases and the timely provision of treatment at district level to reduce deaths.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the bacterium known as vibrio cholerae. The disease has a short incubation period and produces a toxin that causes continuous watery diarrhoea, a condition that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not administered promptly. Vomiting also occurs in most patients.

In its statement, WHO added that it did not recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied to the Sierra Leone due to the outbreak.


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