Fri. Dec 13th, 2019

Cyclone Idai: Vaccines arrive as cholera epidemic worsens

Mozambique Cyclone Idai Cholera BeiraBeira in Mozambique will receive some relief on Wednesday as cholera vaccines are rolled out.

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The number of confirmed cases of cholera in the Cyclone Idai ravaged regions of Mozambique have risen to over 1,400 as of late Tuesday afternoon.

The disease is treatable but can be fatal within hours if not handled appropriately. According to WebMD: “If not treated, dehydration [caused by cholera] can lead to shock and death in a matter of hours.”

According to the World Health Organization: “Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhoea, and can lead to dehydration and kill within hours if left untreated. People with low immunity – such as malnourished children or people living with HIV – are at a greater risk of death if infected.”

The pathogens that cause cholera thrive in conditions such as those that have been left behind in the wake of the environmental disaster.

Two deaths have been attributed to the disease since the first case was reported last week. Most of the cases of cholera have occured in the port city of Beira which bore the brunt of Cyclone Idai.

The number of cholera cases has steadily increased from around 150 late last week to over 1000 by Monday afternoon. Residents of Beira are at greatest risk, but incidents have also been reported in more isolated areas in Mozambique.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that 900 000 oral cholera vaccines arrived in Beira for the expected launch of a vaccination campaign on Wednesday.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti urged aid agencies and governments to move quickly to restore Mozambique’s medical services.

“The next few weeks are crucial and speed is of the essence if we are to save lives and limit suffering,” said Dr Moeti after visiting the region hit by Cyclone Idai.

Further hampering efforts is the fact that 54 health centers across central Mozambique have been completely destroyed by Cyclone Idai.

“I saw the paediatric ward of Pontagera Health Centre had been completely destroyed, the roof had been torn off and the equipment and supplies ruined by water. We must do everything we can to protect the people of Mozambique from a disease outbreak or other health problems caused by lack of access to essential services,” Moeti added.

The death toll in the wake of Cyclone Idai has now risen to over 400, with thousands more still displaced across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

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