Nigerian health authorities are warning of a possible cholera epidemic. They say the water-borne infection has been confirmed in 12 of the country's 36 states, leading to the reported deaths of over 400 people. Authorities fear the disease could spread further because of heavy seasonal rains, poor sanitation and lack of access to clean water.
The country is not prepared to deal with a cholera epidemic, says Dr. Lateef Olepina, an infectious diseases consultant at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
“There are scattered infrastructures in some teaching hospitals that can handle it. However most of the infections seem to be happening in the rural areas. So it takes quite a long time before they can transport those patients down to the hospitals. Some of these people do not have the resources to find their way to a major teaching hospital, where they can get help.”
Some hospitals have reported an increase in the number of patients, according to Olepina, but he says national hospitals have not yet collected data on the number of people infected.
Nigerian authorities have not mobilized the kind of resources necessary to deal with an epidemic of this magnitude, says Olepina.
“Sometimes, some of these things may be political and I don’t think we have put too much emphasis on that yet, which we should. Given what is happening in Pakistan, one would think we would put a lot of emphasis on it, but unfortunately, that is not what is happening now.”