NEWS: WHO Supports Immunisation Against Cholera In Zambia

Following an outbreak of cholera in Zambia’s capital, 1 million residents of Lusaka are set to be immunised against the deadly disease.

The outbreak initially started in the Chipata sub-district on the 2nd October 2017, where it continued to spread leading to the Minister of Health to declare an outbreak on the 6th October¹. On the 9th of January 2018, the Zambian Government placed a temporary suspension on the issue of passports and national identity cards in a bid to contain the disease².  It is only now that the Zambian government have announced their plan to do a wide scale immunisation in Lusaka, with the support of the World Health Organisation and its partners.

Cholera is a bacterial disease that is spread by the faecal-oral route, which means ingestion of contaminated food or water from faecal matter. It is characterised by acute diarrhoea just hours after ingestion, which if left untreated can lead to fatal dehydration.

Cholera may be mild or be asymptomatic (without symptoms) in healthy individuals. It is associated with poor sanitary conditions and overcrowding; something the WHO and the Zambia National Public Health Institute are set to address following the outbreak.

Recommendations for Travellers:

For most UK travellers, cholera poses only a very small risk and prevention would normally involve good personal hygiene and following food and water safety practices. Certain activities may increase this risk, such as crowded unsanitary living conditions. Those who may be advised to have the vaccination include³:

• Aid workers
• Those who have limited access to safe water and medical care
• Those for whom vaccination is considered potentially beneficial i.e those with a suppressed immune system

The Vaccine (Dukoral):

The vaccination is given orally as a drink and generally well tolerated, with less than 1 in 100 people experiencing short-term symptoms such as minor stomach upset.  The UK licensed cholera vaccine is called Dukoral. For adults, two doses are required with, at least, a one-week interval between them. If more than six weeks have elapsed between doses the primary course should be restarted. The protection lasts for 2 years after the initial course, after this time a booster vaccine would be required if protection is still needed.  This booster must be taken with 2 years of the initial course otherwise a full course of two doses will be needed again.

For more information on vaccinations speak to our qualified pharmacist.

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