An unprecedented cholera outbreak is killing hundreds of people in a war-torn Yemen. In just four weeks, over 330 people died, an estimated of 32,000 falling ill. Seeing as health conditions in the country are more than poor due to the ongoing war, the World Health Organization estimates around 300,000 individuals will be infected with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria by the end of the year.
Cholera Is Usually Asymptomatic
Cholera is produced by the vibrio cholerae bacteria which delves in muddy, unclean waters. During its first stages, the disease does not produce any noticeable symptoms. The problems start when patients start experiencing watery diarrhea. If left untreated, individuals can die within several hours after the initial episode due to severe dehydration.
In normal conditions, cholera is easily treated, patients receiving a mix of antibiotics and oral and intravenous rehydration to quickly replace all the fluids and electrolytes the infected individuals loose once diarrhea hits.
However, Yemen has been devastated by two years of civil war. Healthcare is scarce as medical provisions are even scarcer. Among the remaining operational hospitals, rehydration fluids are more valuable than gold, the doctors and nurses still working there having to prioritize patients according to their rate of survival. Infected individuals with no access to clean water or electrolyte IVs die hours after their first diarrhea episode.
What Caused the Cholera Outbreak?
Air strikes have permanently damaged the country’s sewage system. From there, water infested with fecal matter leaked into drinkable water conducts. Even more, unknowing individuals used the infected water to irrigate food crops, which were also infected with the bacteria.
Adding fuel to the fire, the weather seems to work with the bacteria, recent heat waves combined with heavy rains rapidly spreading the infection to 19 of the total 22 governorates. The situation in Yemen is more than desperate, the country being in need of medical supplies, clean water, and food.
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