By Iyemah David
The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), backed Oral Cholera vaccine (OCV), says its effective enough to be recommended for disease prevention and control of cholera in the country.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, made the recommendation on Monday in Abuja, at the Global Task Force on Cholera Control training on oral cholera vaccine request and campaign planning organised by World Health Organisation (WHO).
Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with Vibrio cholerae bacteria.
People can get sick when they swallow food or water contaminated with cholera bacteria. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe and life-threatening.
According to Ehanire, the first recorded appearance of cholera at an epidemic level in Nigeria was in 1972, with gradually increasing numbers of outbreaks over the years, along with marked mortality and morbidity, and expenses associated with treatment and management.
The minister said that the traditional measures for cholera prevention and control have been to provide potable water and improve hygiene and sanitation.
He said that science has, however, over the years, risen to the task, with the development of the oral cholera vaccine, now certified as effective enough to be recommended for disease prevention and control.
He stressed that the availability of the vaccine has unfortunately been limited, which had also restricted its use and the much-expected impact.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Incident Manager, NCDC, Dr Sebastian Yennan, said that despite being in the twenty-first century, with vast scientific and technological health advancements, cholera remains one of several infectious diseases which continue to threaten the national and global health security.
Yenman said that unfortunately, annually, there were about 1.3 to 4 million cases of cholera with 21,000 to 143,000 deaths worldwide.
“Considering the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in over 505 million SARS-CoV-2 confirmed cases and 6.2 million deaths in the last two years, cholera may seem irrelevant, but it is of as much importance as COVID-19.
“In 2021, Nigeria recorded the highest cases of cholera globally with a total of 111,062 suspected cases including 3,604 deaths (CFR 3.2%) reported from 33 states and the FCT.
“As of epidemiological week 12, in 2022, end of March, the cumulative number of suspected cases is 1,359 while the number of deaths is 31 in-country. These cases and unfortunate deaths are needless, and we must remember that every life is valuable, one death is one too many,” he explained.
He said that NCDC recognized the critical need for cholera to be pushed up the agenda of the political leaders and the agency continues to prioritise engagements with the key political decision-makers through the National Economic Council meetings at the Presidency, Nigeria Governor’s Forum, and the National Council on Health
The Director for Disease Control and Immunisation, NPHCDA, Dr. Bassey Okposen, said that the major causes of cholera outbreaks were poor access to safe water, insufficient water infrastructure, poor sanitation and hygiene practices, and difficulty in accessing some communities with response measures due to security concerns.
Others, Okposen said include inadequate vaccines, open defecation, inadequate health facility infrastructure and commodities for case management, and inadequately trained personnel for disease surveillance.
He, however, added that preventive and reactive response measures, oral cholera vaccines were a critical tool that was of underestimated value.
He urged Nigerians that these measures must be used alongside measures such as improved water, sanitation, and hygiene.