The outbreak of cholera continues to ravage war-torn South Sudan as the humanitarian organization, Save the Children, puts the tally at 2,600 people infected to date with thousands more at risk of the serious gastrointestinal disease.
The outbreak, first reported in Juba in May, has claimed the lives of some 60 so far. The disease has now spread to many areas in the country, with outbreaks or alerts reported in nine out of ten states.
Pete Walsh, Save the Children’s Country Director in South Sudan, said: “Our teams on the ground are seeing new cases of cholera every day. Desperate parents are coming to clinics with children who are already considerably weakened by the disease. This spread is extremely concerning, especially coming on top of a growing hunger crisis and as hundreds of thousands of people are struggling to survive in overcrowded, unsanitary camps. The health service is already overstretched and there are widespread shortages of lifesaving supplies.”
“With heavier rains due in the coming weeks and months, the situation could still get a lot worse. Stagnant floodwater provides the perfect conditions for the rapid spread of cholera and roads are turning to mud, hindering efforts to get support and life-saving drugs to those that desperately need them,” Walsh added. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page
The cholera outbreak is just one facet of the overall crisis in the world’s youngest country. Conflict and violence has forced 1.5 million people from their homes with famine becoming ever closer in the fledgling nation.
Cholera, caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, is an acute bacterial intestinal disease characterized by sudden onset, profuse watery stools (given the appearance as rice water stools because of flecks of mucus in water) due to a very potent enterotoxin. The enterotoxin leads to an extreme loss of fluid and electrolytes in the production of diarrhea. It has been noted that an untreated patient can lose his bodyweight in fluids in hours resulting in shock and death.
The bacteria are acquired through ingestion of contaminated water or food through a number of mechanisms. Water is usually contaminated by the feces of infected individuals. Drinking water can be contaminated at the source, during transport or during storage at home. Food can get contaminated by soiled hands, during preparation or while eating. Beverages and ice prepared with contaminated water and fruits and vegetables washed with this water are other examples. Some outbreaks are linked to raw or undercooked seafood.