The Zambian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization are beginning a cholera vaccination campaign January 10 to help stop an outbreak of this deadly disease. Latest official figures put the number of cases at 2,672, including 63 deaths.
Two rounds of immunizations are planned. At each stage, about one million people will be vaccinated against cholera. Most of those who will receive these shots live in or around the Zambian capital, Lusaka, since nearly all of the cases of this fatal disease are centered there.
World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier says the WHO has helped the government plan the campaign and has trained about 500 health and community workers how to administer the vaccine.
He agrees vaccination is an important measure in preventing the onset and spread of cholera. But he says access to clean water, proper sanitation and good hygiene are fundamental to stopping outbreaks entirely.
He tells VOA the government is taking measures to remedy this situation.
“First of all, it has deployed the military to clean up parts of the city where sanitation has been poor. It has also closed a market where sanitation was poor. It has banned street vending and also public gatherings and was delaying the start of the new school semester,” he said.
Cholera, an acute diarrheal disease, can kill within hours if left untreated. People become severely dehydrated and must have their lost fluids replaced quickly if they are to survive.
Lindmeier says it is critical for people to have access to treatment centers where they can easily be helped through oral rehydration or, in the more serious cases, through intravenous fluids.