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Cholera making a comeback after years of decline: WHO

NEW DELHI: The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that cholera, a disease of the 19th century, may be making a comeback again after years of decline.

According to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of WHO, a worrying upsurge in cases of the food and water borne disease has been observed around the globe over the past year.

“Cholera thrives on poverty and conflict, but is now being turbo-charged by climate change. Extreme climate events like floods, cyclones and droughts further reduce access to clean water and create the ideal environment for cholera to spread,” Ghebreyesus said.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio Cholerae. It causes acute watery diarrhoea. While most people recover from the disease with mild or no symptoms, some can develop acute watery diarrhoea with severe dehydration.

According to Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, the group medical director of Max healthcare group, if left untreated, severe dehydration can lead to serious complications and even cause death.

“Cholera was never eliminated in India. But, it’s true the number of cases of the disease have gone up. Even in a city like Delhi we have seen clustering of cases of cholera in July-August. Some patients also require hospitalisation,” he said.

Seven people died of cholera and about 100 others were affected by the food and water-borne disease in Odisha’s Rayagada district.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health (IJERP), cholera outbreaks are relatively frequent in India. From 1997 to 2006, the study says, 68 outbreaks were reported, while the reported outbreaks rose to 559 between 2009 and 2017.

“However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The disease is grossly underreported in India, and despite these figures, cholera remains an under-recognised health issue in India,” the researchers from Okayama University, Japan and Brainware University, Kolkata have said in the IJERP study.

Cholera thrives on poverty and conflict, but is now being turbo-charged by climate change, says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of WHO.

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