Cases of Cholera Decreased By 60% In 2018, Endemic Countries Make Gains

The number of cholera cases decreased by 60% in 2018 compared to 2017. Cholera-endemic countries such as Haiti, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo saw some of the highest reductions.

Cholera vaccination in Nigeria

“The decrease we are seeing in several major cholera-endemic countries demonstrates the increased engagement of countries in global efforts to slow and prevent cholera outbreaks and shows the vital role of mass cholera vaccination campaigns,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a press release. “The long-term solution for ending cholera lies in increasing access to clean drinking water and providing adequate sanitation and hygiene.”

There were 499,447 reported cases and 2990 deaths in 2018, significantly lower than the 1.2 million cases and 5654 deaths reported in 2017. The country most affected by the ongoing cholera pandemic continues to be Yemen, which reported 128,121 cases and 2485 deaths in 2018, according to data collected by WHO.

However, several cholera-endemic countries saw dramatic decreases in the number of cases – including Haiti, Somalia, DRC, Zambia, South Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Somalia, Bangladesh, and Nigeria – thanks to the implementation of new national action plans for cholera control.

“The global decrease in case numbers we are observing appears to be linked to large-scale vaccination campaigns and countries beginning to adopt the Global Roadmap to 2030 strategy in their national cholera action plans,” said Dr Dominique Legros, head of WHO’s cholera programme in Geneva.

“We must continue to strengthen our efforts to engage all cholera-endemic countries in this global strategy to eliminate cholera.”

Nearly 18 million doses of Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) were shipped to 11 countries in 2018, financed in part by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. However, experts at WHO say that vaccination must be supplemented with efforts to improve access to clean water and sanitation. Vibro cholerae, the bacterium that causes the acute diarrhoeal infection, breeds in contaminated food and water.

Mass vaccination and water and sanitation interventions are recommended as part of the Global Roadmap strategy, which provides a three-pillar framework for national action plans focusing on:

  • Early detection and rapid response to contain outbreaks
  • A multisectoral approach integrating strengthened surveillance, vaccination, community mobilization, and water, sanitation and hygiene to prevent cholera in hotspots in endemic countries
  • An effective mechanism of coordination for technical support, resource mobilization and partnership at the local and global levels.

Image Credits: WHO.