WHO Alerts on Global Cholera Surge, Chad Eradicates Sleeping Sickness, Lagos Issues Health Advisory

By Joke Kujenya

WITH NEARLY 195,000 cases and over 1,900 deaths recorded across 24 countries since the beginning of 2024, the World Health Organization (WHO) has raised alarms over a sharp increase in cholera cases globally.

WHO notes that the Eastern Mediterranean Region reports the highest number of cases, followed by the African Region, the Americas, Southeast Asia, and Europe.

According to a WHO statement released on Thursday, no cholera cases have been reported in the Western Pacific Region.

The bulletin revealed that the global stockpile of Oral Cholera Vaccines (OCV) was exhausted by March, though the agency managed to exceed its emergency target by distributing five million doses in early June.

Despite these efforts, the demand for vaccines far surpasses the supply, with 16 countries requesting 92 million doses since January 2023—almost double the 49 million doses produced during that period.

WHO, UNICEF, and other partners are collaborating to allocate resources and develop long-term solutions to combat cholera.

In parallel, WHO announced a significant public health victory: Chad has successfully eradicated the gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis, commonly known as sleeping sickness.

WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus commended Chad’s achievement, stating, “I congratulate the government and the people of Chad for this achievement. It is great to see Chad join the growing group of countries that have eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease (NTD).” Chad now joins around 50 countries globally that have eradicated at least one NTD, moving closer to the target of 100 countries by 2030.

Sleeping sickness, if untreated, can cause severe neurological symptoms and often leads to death. Chad’s success is attributed to improved access to early diagnosis, treatment, surveillance, and response.

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the Lagos State Government has issued a health advisory to parents, guardians, and school authorities following the recent cholera outbreak.

Noting that as schools resume after the mid-term and Sallah break, the government urges parents to monitor their children’s health, watching for symptoms like frequent watery stools and vomiting.

Parents are advised to keep symptomatic children at home and seek medical advice promptly.

The advisory also emphasizes hand hygiene, recommending that children carry hand sanitizers and wash their hands frequently, especially before meals and after using the restroom.

Schools are instructed to enforce strict hygiene practices among food handlers and ensure the availability of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) in school clinics to manage dehydration cases quickly.

In case of any health emergencies or suspected cholera cases, schools should notify emergency hotlines immediately. Parents are also encouraged to stay in contact with schools for health updates and report any health concerns promptly.

Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, confirmed that laboratory tests identified a highly aggressive and contagious cholera strain as the cause of the outbreak. He reported 350 suspected cases of cholera across 29 wards in multiple local government areas, emphasizing the potential for widespread transmission.

He said the Lagos State Government’s proactive measures aim to create a safe environment for children returning to school, urging everyone to stay vigilant and adhere to health guidelines.

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