The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the cholera outbreak in the Nigerian state of Adamawa may mutate into a West African regional public health hazard unless urgent measures are taken to suppress it locally and prevent it spreading across the border into Cameroun.

Image/Robert Herriman
Image/Robert Herriman

In its latest epidemiological report on the Adamawa cholera outbreak, the WHO said 1168 cases and 20 deaths have been recorded in the Mubi North and Mubi South local government areas of Adamawa by June 7, 2018. The outbreak was confirmed on May 12.

WHO Adamawa Incident Manager for the cholera response Mallam Kabiru Sadiq said although new cases are being reported daily, the case fatality ratio has dropped drastically due to the impact of stepped-up disease surveillance and early responses to new cases.  

“This is an indication of active house-to-house surveillance led and coordinated by WHO. The case fatality ratio was 17% as of 12 May 2018, but it had dropped to 1.7% as of 07 June 2018, suggesting that cases are being detected and reported early by the surveillance team coordinated by WHO,” Sadiq said.

Responses to the cholera emergency in Adamawa have been complicated and limited by widespread insecurity in the state, which forms one of the major Nigerian frontlines in the war between Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram and the armies of Nigeria and Cameroon.

WHO Emergency Response Manager for the cholera outbreak in north-eastern Nigeria Dr Collins Owili said despite the difficult environment of insecurity, the agency is working hard to ensure the outbreak does not spread from Nigeria into neighbouring Cameroon.

“That explains why we swiftly activated and managed a cholera treatment centre in collaboration with the Adamawa state health authorities. Within two weeks of the outbreak, we disinfected all infected households, advocated for and supervised the chlorination of commercial water sources. We are still conducting house-to-house surveillance operations and active searches for new cases”, Dr Owilli said.

WHO partners United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Solidaritaire and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) have also activated disease control measures including water chlorination, public awareness campaigns and case management.