Precautions to take to avoid catching or spreading cholera

Zimbabwe announced a cholera outbreak that claimed five people in the Mashonaland East town of Chegutu.

Food Preparation

Cholera is a diarrhoeal disease caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Children as well as adults can get infected.

A person can become infected by drinking water or eating food contaminated by the bacterium. Common sources of foodborne infection include raw or poorly cooked seafood, raw fruit and vegetables, and other foods contaminated during preparation or storage.

Cholera remains an ever-present risk in many countries. New outbreaks can occur sporadically in any part of the world where water supplies, sanitation, food safety, and hygiene are inadequate. The greatest risk occurs in overpopulated communities and refugee settings characterized by poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water. For information of whether there is cholera in the area where you are travelling, contact your health care provider, local office of public health or travel health centre.

Measures for the prevention of cholera mostly consist of providing clean water and proper sanitation to populations who do not yet have access to basic services. Health education and good food hygiene are equally important. Communities should be reminded of basic hygienic behaviours, including the necessity of systematic hand-washing with soap after defecation and before handling food or eating, as well as safe preparation and conservation of food. Appropriate media, such as radio, television or newspapers should be involved in disseminating health education messages. Community and religious leaders should also be associated to social mobilization campaigns.

  • Drink only water that has been boiled or disinfected with chlorine, iodine or other suitable products. Products for disinfecting water are generally available in pharmacies. Beverages such as hot tea or coffee, wine, beer, carbonated water or soft drinks, and bottled or packaged fruit juices are usually safe to drink.
  • Avoid ice, unless you are sure that it is made from safe water.
  • Eat food that has been thoroughly cooked and is still hot when served. Cooked food that has been held at room temperature for several hours and served without being reheated can be an important source of infection.
  • Avoid raw seafood and other raw foods. The exceptions are fruits and vegetables that you have peeled or shelled yourself.
  • Boil unpasteurized milk before drinking it.
  • Ice cream from unreliable sources is frequently contaminated and can cause illness. If in doubt, avoid it.
  • Be sure that meals bought from street vendors are thoroughly cooked in your presence and do not contain any uncooked foods.

Source:  World Health Organisation 

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