WHO announces cholera outbreak in 23 countries
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a cholera outbreak in 23 countries, warning that 20 more countries sharing land borders with the affected countries are at risk.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus stated this during the bloc’s online media conference on Friday.
Mr Ghebreyesus said more than one billion people globally were at risk of cholera.
“Cholera spreads through contaminated water, so clean water is needed urgently wherever there is an acute outbreak to prevent transmission,” he said.
WHO recommends countries at risk of cholera outbreaks scale up surveillance so cases can be identified and managed as quickly as possible.
Mr Ghebreyesus noted that the supply was limited despite effective vaccines for cholera.
According to Ghebreyesus, the International Coordinating Group that manages the global cholera vaccine stockpile in 2022 suspended the standard two-dose regimen, recommending a single-dose approach to extend supply instead.
He, however, said in the medium-to-long-term, it remained important that global vaccine production was increased.
“In the meantime, we must rely on other measures to stop outbreaks and save lives,” he said.
According to him, over the past few weeks, there have been many reports of mammals, including minks, otters, foxes and sea lions, being infected with H5N1 avian influenza.
He noted that the H5N1 had spread widely in wild birds and poultry for 25 years, but the recent spillover to mammals needed to be monitored closely.
Mr Ghebreyesus, however, disclosed that at the moment, WHO had assessed the risk to humans as low. He said that since H5N1 first emerged in 1996, they had only seen rare and non-sustained transmission of H5N1 to and between humans.
“But we cannot assume that will remain the case, and we must prepare for any change in the status quo. As always, people are advised not to touch or collect dead or sick wild animals but to report to local authorities. WHO is working with national authorities and partners to monitor the situation closely and to study cases of H5N1 infection in humans when they occur,” he said.
WHO’s global laboratory network, the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System, identifies and monitors strains of circulating influenza viruses and provides advice to countries on their risk to human health and available treatment or control measures.