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The war on cholera

Although there is a lot of fighting and war going on in the Middle East, the biggest threat and danger may actually be caused by something that is too small for the human eye to even see.  The bacterium Vibrio cholera can cause an acute diarrheal disease known as cholera, which can kill within hours if untreated.  There are an estimated 1.4 to 4.3 million cases each year resulting in 28,000 to 142,000 deaths.  The biggest way in controlling cholera and preventing epidemics is the provision of safe water and sanitation.

The fighting in Iraq and Syria is beginning to take a toll on public health in the recent years.  The fighting is exposing people to cholera epidemics because of the poor sanitation conditions, which allows for easy spread of disease, or increases the p value in the Ro=pk equation.  This will increase the reproductive number Ro which will increase the likelihood of an epidemic spreading.  In addition to worsened sanitation conditions, a lot of refugees are flee to refugee camps.  This increases the number of people that can come in contact with the bacterium as it can spread through water that is infected by someone with cholera, which increases the k value.  Again, this will increase the reproductive number as it is dependent on p*k.

The World Health Organization is trying to lower the spread of cholera, or lower the reproductive number, by providing clean water and vaccinations to lower those k and p values.  However, it is very difficult given that these areas in the Middle East are in war and conflict, which is causing shortages for clean drinking water.



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December 2015