May 31, 2023
Jennifer Radlinsky, Emergency Management, Health, and Hazards (EMH2) Team
Jennifer Loy, Chief Editor
Event: On May 30, 2023, The World Health Organization (WHO) donated cholera testing kits for about 2,800 patients and medical supplies to bolster Zimbabwe’s response to an ongoing outbreak. The kits were funded by a partnership with the WHO and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USCDC) and contained treatment resources. WHO has enhanced treatment and prevention strategies in response to the presence of cholera in previously non-detected areas and projected pressure on healthcare facilities as cases increase. Local health officials raised concerns that infection rates will rapidly increase because of poor sewage management and lax hygiene practices in densely populated areas. Oral vaccine shortages have prevented widespread inoculation programs from taking place and the strategy shifted focus to prevention by providing access to clean water and educational programs on proper hygiene.
Significance: Oral vaccine shortages will almost certainly complicate plans to control disease spread, likely necessitating dependence on mitigation strategies like supportive care of the infected. Cholera’s presence and high transmissibility in areas lacking clean water will very likely lead to increased cases. Ongoing sewage management and uncontrolled flow in populated areas will almost certainly increase the risk for citizens who are unable to avoid it through daily movements. A low number of functional clinics will unlikely be able to provide the capacity of care demanded by a high infection rate. Care delays and deaths will almost certainly result from inadequate access to prompt treatment. Control will very likely depend on the level of resource support allocated to areas that experience severe outbreaks. NGOs are unlikely to be able to provide adequate financial support, likely requiring Zimbabwe to request additional assistance from governments and entities such as the USCDC.
Surveillance programs should be scaled for the identification of potential infections, determination of outbreak status, and testing kits provided accordingly.
Zimbabwe should monitor borders for the inflow and outflow of potentially infected travelers and isolate them as necessary to prevent further spread.
Zimbabwe should prioritize infrastructure building and repairs with the help of international partners capable of completing large projects.
The WHO should collaborate with pharmaceutical companies to secure the manufacture and procurement of oral cholera vaccines in ample quantities to deliver the full two-dose regimen for maximum efficacy.
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 WHO Donates Cholera Supplies to enhance outbreak response in Zimbabwe, reliefweb.int, May 2023, https://reliefweb.int/report/zimbabwe/who-donates-cholera-supplies-enhance-outbreak-response-zimbabwe