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Cholera Outbreaks on the Rise, Says WHO

After decades of progress against cholera outbreaks, cases are again on the rise, even in countries that have not seen the disease in years.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection that spreads through food and water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, often from faeces. With safe water and sanitation, cholera can be prevented. It can kill within hours when not treated, but immediate access to treatment saves lives.

While the triggers for cholera outbreaks—like poverty and conflict—are enduring, climate change and conflict are now compounding the problem. Extreme climate events like floods, cyclones and droughts reduce access to clean water and create an ideal environment for cholera to thrive.

In 2022, 44 countries reported cholera cases, a 25% increase from the 35 countries that reported cases in 2021. This trend continues into 2023. The recent outbreaks have also been more deadly, with case fatality rates being the highest recorded in over a decade.

This increase in outbreaks and cases is stretching the global capacity to respond. There is a shortage of cholera tools, including vaccines.

World Health Organisation, WHO considers the current global risk from cholera as very high and is responding with urgency to reduce deaths and contain outbreaks in countries around the world.   

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