“The cholera bacterium has undergone important mutations in recent years, causing longer outbreaks of the disease with increased fatalities, researchers reported on Wednesday,” Reuters reports. “In a package of papers published in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, they said mass vaccinations should be considered as a solution even after outbreaks have begun,” the news service writes.
“Although easily administered oral vaccines exist, public health officials typically don’t vaccinate against cholera in the throes of an outbreak because medical workers have their hands full rehydrating patients who have come down with the diarrheal disease,” Science News writes.
In recent months, the debate over how useful a cholera vaccine can be during an outbreak has “reignited,” as experts try to slow the spread of the disease in Haiti, which to date has sickened some 105,000 and killed more than 2,000, Reuters writes.
“Caused by a water-borne bacteria called vibrio cholera, [cholera] is transmitted when contaminated human fecal matter gets into water, food or onto someone’s hands” – a particular “challenge to countries without safe drinking water and adequate sanitation,” Reuters continues. While the symptoms from the disease can kill some within hours, others “show no symptoms but can pass the bacterium further”.
In an effort to assess how a cholera vaccine could have affected the outcome of previous cholera outbreaks, “scientists collected information from three regions where cholera has struck in the past 15 years – Zimbabwe, Zanzibar and India,” and used a computer model to predict outcomes of an early vaccine effort, Science News writes of one of the studies published in the journal.