What do you think of when you first hear word “cholera”? One usually thinks of this deadly disease as being in some faraway place and if a person does not travel there, he or she will not get it. For me, cholera is a reality! My husband informed me the other day that we have a cholera outbreak right here in Thondwe. Every single rainy season there is a cholera outbreak in the townships mainly because of bad sewer systems. Heavy rains come and wash human and animal waste into water ways that later on will be used by people to draw drinking water.
What is cholera? In a nonscientific way of describing it is severe dehydration of the body that can lead to death. The Vibrio cholera bacterium enters a human body usually through the drinking water and contaminated food and reaps havoc on the inside. The main symptom is diarrhea. In some cases if not treated, cholera can lead to death within 4 hours if not treated properly. Statistics show that in Zimbabwe this year alone 3,000 died from cholera. It is difficult at times to calculate the actual numbers of death and the sites of the outbreak because of inadequate monitoring.
The first thing I did after hearing the news was sit down with my children and tell them about the sickness and warn them about drinking water anywhere but home. I also told them to make sure they wash their hands. You may wonder: Don’t they wash their hands to begin with? They do but the reality of things is that their Malawian friend may bring them a mango and my kids will eat it on the spot without giving the washing of their hands or the mango a second thought. So how can I prevent cholera without having to “shadow my kids” all the time? Since people can contract cholera from feces infested water all I need to do is stack up on plenty of rehydration salts and make sure that my children drink pure water!