Drought: ‘Together we can help prevent cholera’

2015-11-04 06:00
Wash your hands regularly with clean and purified water. Photo: sourced

Wash your hands regularly with clean and purified water. Photo: sourced

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What is cholera?

•An infection of the intestine caused by water-borne bacteria Vibrio cholerae resulting in illness characterised by acute watery diarrhoea (runny tummy). Cholera can cause rapid dehydration (loss of fluids) and death if not treated quickly and successfully.

Who is at risk?

•People using unclean water from environmental sources such as rivers, streams, bore-holes, dams, wells and those who do not have access to adequate and proper sanitation.

How is cholera spread?

•By drinking water or eating food that is infected with cholera bacteria.

This happens when an infected person handles food without washing their hands, or relieves themselves into a water source. Communities using unclean water for drinking or washing of eating utensils are at risk.

•Cholera is NOT spread from person to person.

•Water that is properly purified will not be a risk.

What are the signs and symptoms of cholera?

•Most people who become infected with cholera have no symptoms but will have the bacteria in their faeces.

•Symptoms may occur from a few hours to five days after being infected

(usually two to three days).

•Sudden occurrence of severe, painless watery diarrhoea – in some cases ‘rice-water’ appearance.

•Vomiting may occur early in the illness.

•Dehydration may develop within hours of being ill and may progress very rapidly.

•In severe cases: muscle cramps, cold sweaty skin, rapid breathing.

•If not treated, serious complications may occur, e.g. kidney failure.

How to protect yourself from cholera disease?

•Use clean/purified water for drinking and washing of food and utensils.

•Boil or purify water that is collected from rivers, bore-holes, streams, dams, wells and tanks before drinking or washing food and utensils.
How to purify water:

•Mix a teaspoon or capful of household bleach with 20-25 litres of water and let it stand for at least two hours (preferably overnight)


•Allow water to boil (bubble) for at least one full minute.

•Always store purified water in a clean, covered container.

•Wash hands with soap and clean/purified water before and after handling food, and after using the toilet or changing a baby’s nappy.

•Wash fruit and vegetables with clean/purified water before eating.

•Cook food well.

•Store food under hygienic conditions – keep it covered in a clean, cool place.

•Do not relieve yourself in or near rivers and other water sources.

•Faeces should be disposed of in a way that does not pollute water sources.

What should you do if you or a family member has diarrhoea?

•Prepare a mixture of oral rehydration fluid for the person to drink on their way to the clinic/hospital

• Go to the nearest clinic/hospital immediately.

How to prepare oral rehydration fluid

* Boil one litre of water, add eight teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt and mix well. Drink constantly.

- iLembe District Municipality

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