Cholera Deaths Essay

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The Fight against Cholera: An Unconscionable Tragedy

The Fight Against Cholera: An Unconscionable Tragedy Imagine that while vacationing on the beautiful continents of Africa or India; you began to feel sick, experiencing a rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, extreme thirst, cramping, irritability, vomiting and uncontrollable diarrhea. Of course these symptoms would naturally put a damper on the excitement of traveling in foreign country and perhaps they could even ruin your vacation. But what if you realized that also within hours there was possibility that you could die. That is the experience of cholera, a diarrheal disease that affects more than 3 million people worldwide every year, with 100,000-120,000 cases actually ending in death. (World Health Organization, 2013). From presidents, to kings, to musical composers, artists and scientists to even the most common man, the mortality of cholera is real and has been a fierce presence over time. Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the intake of water or food that has been contaminated by the bacterium, vibrio cholerae, which affects people of all ages. Many infected, about 75%, may experience no symptoms at all. Some may experience mild symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, or leg cramps over the course of 7-14 days. And about 20% experience severe and immediate symptoms such as rapid loss of body fluids, dehydration, shock, and could face without treatment even death. Cholera is a disease that can spread quickly in areas and regions that have inadequate sewage, sanitation, or improper hygiene. Many underdeveloped countries have endured an epidemic of cholera that begins by the feces of an infected person contaminating that area’s main food and/or water source. The bacterium vibrio cholera is also found in brackish rivers and coastal waters where other sources such as where raw or undercooked shellfish can be found. Raw and undercooked shellfish are also the most common way for people in countries such as the United States to contract this disease. Outbreaks and epidemics of cholera occurred throughout the 1800’s in different regions of the world that include Southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Mediterranean, and India. Due to the number of people affected and enormous number of deaths caused by cholera, it was recognized as a major pandemic, the first of several to affect Asia and Europe during the 1800 and 1900’s. During that time, it was commonplace for water supplies to be the dumping graves for contaminated water, especially in Europe. Contamination quickly spread affecting far reaching regions such as Russia and China. It is also believed that French travelers brought disease to North America causing occurrences throughout Canada and the United States. John Snow, an English physician and considered father of Epidemiology discovered that the widespread and deadly illness was actually the result of a commonly used and contaminated water supply. His discovery led to new inventions and systems to eliminate waste and contamination. By the 20th century there were at least seven reported cholera pandemics that affected millions in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. More recently, countries as close as Haiti have been battling an eruption of cholera for years. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that as of 2013 nearly 8,000 Haitians have died from cholera and thousands more hospitalized. (Centers for Disease Control, 2013). The disease has spread to neighboring countries like Cuba and Dominican Republic. This modern cholera outbreak has been blamed on the lack of access to clean water and available healthcare, crowded living conditions and poor sanitation, all occurring particularly after a major earthquake hit Haiti in 2010. The United States and other world leaders have contributed to the fight against the epidemic in Haiti and to decrease the chance of another