Update on Cholera in Lebanon, Statement by WHO Regional Director on Cholera Outbreaks

By NewsDesk @bactiman63

The Lebanese Ministry of Health reports today in an update that the cholera outbreak that started in early October has spread to 2709 total cholera cases (suspected and confirmed), including 436 confirmed cases.

The death toll from cholera now stands at 18.

WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr Ahmed Al Mandhari issued a statement on cholera last week:

After decades without a single case of cholera, the recently declared outbreaks in Lebanon and Syria mark an unwelcome return to these countries. In fact, this is part of a worsening trend in the Region and globally, as 8 of the 22 countries in our Region are grappling with outbreaks of cholera and acute watery diarrhea.

Additionally, there are now 29 cholera outbreaks worldwide – the highest number ever recorded. We know that cholera can cross borders, putting neighboring countries at increased risk and reinforcing the need for urgent control. This is a wake-up call for all of us.

Cholera can spread rapidly in our Region, driven by multiple complex humanitarian and health emergencies, protracted conflicts, poor water and sanitation infrastructure and deteriorating economic conditions.

Additionally, climate change has contributed to the resurgence of cholera, and we see this evidence in several countries affected by extreme weather events like floods, droughts and cyclones. Droughts, which are increasingly common in our Region, reduce access to clean water and create an ideal environment for the spread of cholera.

We should not have cholera epidemics in our Region in the 21st century, and certainly people should not die from it. Access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation should be accessible to all and is a basic human right.

Most of the countries affected by the cholera epidemic in the Region are those with poor water supply and sanitation infrastructure and no major investment in recent years. Water scarcity – again, due to drought – is another contributing factor.

A timely and well-coordinated response among all stakeholders is urgently needed to quickly control outbreaks and curb the spread of cases and deaths in affected and neighboring countries.

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This response should focus on improving access to clean water and proper sanitation and hygiene, intensive sensitization, community engagement and strengthening early warning surveillance to detect cases early. and respond effectively.

Good quality clinical management of patients is essential to minimize mortality – cholera is both a highly preventable and treatable disease. WHO is working with ministries of health and partners in all these areas.

The resurgence of cholera epidemics in the Region and globally has resulted in an acute shortage of cholera vaccines. As a result, the International Vaccine Supply Coordinating Group – which manages the global cholera vaccine stockpile – is temporarily suspending the standard 2-dose vaccination schedule for cholera outbreak response campaigns, adopting instead a single-dose approach.

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Using a single-dose strategy allows more people to be vaccinated and gives them short-term protection.

Oral cholera vaccination campaigns are planned in Lebanon and Syria in the coming weeks, while Pakistan has recently undertaken campaigns before and after the recent floods.

Although vaccines are an essential tool, they are not the main intervention in the fight against cholera. Cholera is mainly prevented through access to clean water and sanitation and can be treated easily with oral rehydration solution. Most patients do not require hospitalization. Antibiotics are reserved for the most serious cases.

Cholera can kill, but it is preventable. Let’s not let the hard-won public health gains of the past decades disappear because of people’s lack of access to simple interventions.