Applying the COVID Blueprint to Cholera
Despite their apparent differences, COVID-19 and cholera have much in common, which explains why measures to limit the former, such as decreased travel and increased attention to personal hygiene, brought about a decline in the latter. It also explains why, as pandemic restrictions are lifted, cholera is returning with a vengeance.
DHAKA – Since COVID-19 engulfed the world two years ago, “unprecedented” has become something of a buzzword. But while the coronavirus has posed unique challenges at a time of deep global interconnectedness, pandemics are nothing new. The COVID-19 pandemic is not even the only one we are currently experiencing. In much of the developing world, cholera outbreaks are proliferating.
Whereas the SARS-CoV-2 virus is “novel,” cholera – a water-borne diarrheal disease caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae – is ancient, as is its history of widespread devastation. The current cholera pandemic is the world’s seventh since the early nineteenth century.
Despite their apparent differences, COVID-19 and cholera have much in common. Both are at least partly controllable by vaccination, and both spread most easily in crowded, unsanitary environments. Ensuring adequate shelter and strengthening water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) practices and infrastructure are therefore vital to limit transmission.