NIGERIA – A cholera outbreak has swept across Nigeria, with 65 confirmed cases and 30 deaths reported between January 1 and June 11, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC).

The outbreak spans 96 local government areas in 30 states, intensifying as the rainy season progresses.

The NCDC has issued a public health advisory to alert the public to the escalating number of cholera cases. This follows a significant outbreak in Lagos State, which saw about 60 hospital admissions and five deaths within 48 hours.

As of June 11, the NCDC reported a total of 1,141 suspected cholera cases in 2024, with ten states—Bayelsa, Zamfara, Abia, Cross River, Bauchi, Delta, Katsina, Imo, Nasarawa, and Lagos—accounting for 90% of these cases.

Cholera, a highly contagious disease, spreads through contaminated food and water. Symptoms include acute, painless watery diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and fever.

Severe cases can lead to death within hours due to dehydration, although most cases can be effectively treated with oral rehydration solutions and antibiotics if detected early.

Public health recommendations

The NCDC emphasized the importance of access to safe drinking water, proper sanitation, and hygiene practices to prevent cholera.

They advised the public to boil water before drinking, practice good hand hygiene, and ensure food is thoroughly cooked. They also cautioned against consuming raw or undercooked seafood and food from street vendors.

The agency stressed the importance of avoiding open defecation and ensuring proper waste disposal.

“If you or anyone you know experiences sudden watery diarrhea, please do not self-medicate. Visit a healthcare facility immediately,” the NCDC urged.

Health workers were also advised to follow standard safety precautions, including wearing gloves when handling patients.

Government response and support

The NCDC has been leading a multi-sectoral National Cholera Technical Working Group to support affected states. This support includes risk communication, active case search, laboratory diagnosis, case management, provision of response commodities, and water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions.

The Lagos State government has activated Rapid Response Teams at the local government level, comprising health, WASH, and risk communication experts.

Cholera kits have been prepositioned across 24 health facilities in 20 local government areas. UNICEF is aiding the government in developing information, education, and communication materials to support social and behavioral change, addressing identified gaps in public health messaging.

NAFDAC’s advisory on food storage

Amid the cholera outbreak, the National Agency for Food and Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has issued a warning to Nigerians regarding the storage of cooked food.

The Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, advised against storing cooked food in the refrigerator for more than three days to prevent contamination by disease-causing pathogens.

She highlighted that various pathogens could contaminate foods, leading to foodborne illnesses that could be fatal.

The outbreak and subsequent advisories highlight the critical need for public awareness and adherence to food safety practices to curb the spread of cholera and other foodborne diseases in Nigeria.

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