Malawi is experiencing an outbreak of cholera, two months after the start of the rainy season. Health authorities say the water-borne disease has hit most residents of three districts around Lake Chilwa in eastern Malawi.
The first cholera cases were reported in the eastern districts of Machinga and Zomba on December 19 when one person died and 26 others were receiving treatment at public hospitals.
Health Ministry authorities told VOA on Wednesday that the water-borne disease is now spreading considerably with the number of patients now at 95.
Adrian Chikumbe, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said the outbreak is largely due to poor sanitation around Lake Chilwa, Malawi’s second largest lake.
“You see, at Lake Chilwa, there is this tendency of people constructing houses just above the water and then there are people coming to do fishing and all that, so hygiene is severely compromised,” said Chikumbe.
Medics say cholera is often spread by eating food contaminated by germs from human waste. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration.
Those who do not have access to a hospital or clinic for rehydration therapy can die within 24 hours.
In Malawi, there is fear that the water-borne disease may spread to other districts if left unchecked.
Chikumbe said the government is doing everything possible to control the outbreak.
“We have intensified community sensitization on the dangers of poor sanitation and hygiene, but we are also on [the medical] supplies side, trying to give people chlorine that they should use on drinking water and water they use for cooking,” said Chikumbe.
He said efforts are also underway to start teaching students about sanitation once schools open next week.
Meanwhile, he said, all cholera patients are being treated separately to avoid infecting others.
Malawi last experienced a large-scale cholera outbreak in 2009, when more than 1,000 people were infected.