Cholera is caused by infection with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, and symptoms include profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. Without treatment, death can occur within hours due to dehydration and shock. The bacterium that causes cholera is spread by contaminated drinking water or food.
In Zimbabwe, the lack of safe drinking water, poor sanitation, deteriorating infrastructure, and reduced numbers of healthcare workers reporting to work have all contributed to the continued worsening of the current outbreak of cholera. Countless media reports and news from various on-line sources continue to emphasize the severity of the situation in Zimbabwe. A reported 31,000+ people have been infected and over 1,600 have died. While cholera can be successfully treated with the immediate use of oral rehydration salts, many have limited access to healthcare. This has pushed the case fatality rate from the typical 1% to 5.7% (up to 50% in some more remote areas).
Despite monetary aid pouring in from countries throughout the world and aid from the WHO, Doctor’s Without Borders, the International Federation of the Red Cross, and many others, the most recent week’s report showed both an increase in deaths outside health centers as well as an increase in cases over previous weeks. With the rainy season having just begun, the likelihood of further spread of the outbreak appears likely. The red bubble on HealthMap.org may remain over Zimbabwe well into the spring of 2009.
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