Here Comes the Rain! How Can You Avoid Cholera?

Aon Health & Wellbeing Conversation #6

With the rainy season upon us, so are water-borne diseases such as cholera – which can be caused by ingesting contaminated food or water.
Cholera has been around since the 1800s (particularly in the U.S.), at a time when modernised water and sewage treatment systems were still unavailable. In the 19th century, it spread across the world from the Ganges Delta reservoir in India, causing a series of pandemics that reached South Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
To this day, cholera is considered endemic in many places including the Philippines. While cholera statistics in the Philippines is sporadic, reported cases were seen to be on a rise in the last decade. This could be even higher than reported – as there may be unrecorded cases as well as cases that were misdiagnosed*. The last reported outbreak happened as recently as 2017, in the provinces of Bohol and Cebu.
What are the symptoms?
Different people show different levels of symptoms (from mild to severe), which includes vomiting and painless diarrhoea of ‘rice water’ consistency and a fishy odour. However, if not treated quickly, these symptoms could lead to severe dehydration – and even become fatal. Other symptoms include signs of lethargy or weakness, irritability, extreme thirst and drying of the mouth, drying of the skin, low urine output, irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, coma, and seizures.
Cholera is diagnosed through stool testing. However, it typically takes about 12 hours to 5 days for symptoms to manifest – so people may not realise at the onset that they’ve been infected. Worst of all, cholera is an infectious disease.
The good news is that it can be treated easily through administration of antibiotics, or in severe cases, intravenous fluids.
How to avoid contracting cholera?
Especially during this rainy season, be extra mindful of food and beverage sanitation – whether you’re preparing your own food at home or eating outside. Cholera can stem from eating food grown from soil or water containing human waste, or even something as simple as having ice made from contaminated water.
Here are a few ways to be cautious about your food and drink:
  • Always wash your hands with soap, especially before handling food
  • Boil or chlorinate your drinking water
  • Wash your food thoroughly, and ensure it’s properly cooked
  • Keep your toilets clean, and dispose of human waste in sanitary ways
  • Maintain hygienic practices to prevent pests in your home
  • When eating outside, avoid eating raw or uncooked dishes including peeled fruits or vegetables
  • Take bottled water instead of tap water served in dining places, and avoid having ice with your beverages as much as possible
  • When travelling to a high-risk country, seek medical advice so you can be guided accordingly and administered with a vaccine if necessary.
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