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Cholera outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo

Posted Aug 22 2011 12:00am

Travel Health Advisory: The Public Health Agency of Canada increased the alert to a level 2: practise special precautions on August 19th, 2010.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported cholera outbreaks along the Congo River, affecting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo. Several thousand cases have been reported, many of which have resulted in death.

In DRC, the outbreak began in March 2011 and has recently intensified, affecting four provinces (Bandundu, Equateur, Kinshasa and P Orientale).

In the Republic of Congo, cases have been reported from four provinces (Brazzaville, Cuvette, Likouala and Plateaux).

The risk of further spread along the Congo River is high. The outbreak has been reported to have spread to new locations, particularly in Kinshasa, where there are many people without an adequate supply of safe water.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recommends practising safe food and water precautions when travelling the DRC and the Republic of Congo and advises speaking with a health care provider about cholera vaccine prior to travel.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. People usually become infected by drinking or eating contaminated water or food. It is associated with watery diarrhea and rapid dehydration, which may be life-threatening.

Cholera occurs most commonly in regions of the world where there is inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene, overcrowding and a lack of safe water and food.

Consult a doctor, nurse or health care provider, or visit a travel health clinic at least six weeks before you travel.

1.Practise safe food and water precautions.

2.Consider getting vaccinated.
Most travellers are at low risk. Travellers at high risk for cholera (humanitarian relief workers, travellers visiting areas of high risk with limited access to clean water and food) may benefit from vaccination and should consult with a health care provider to discuss this option.

3.If you develop severe diarrhea and/or vomiting while travelling or after you return to Canada:

a.Seek medical attention immediately.

b.Drink fluids and use oral rehydration salts to prevent dehydration.

Infants, young children, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are at greatest risk of dehydration.
Source: PHAC, WHO

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