BACKGROUND: Diseases

by Lina Koch, 2013/06/04

Cholera, malaria, meningitis, HIV – to name just a few of the diseases that occur frequently in Third and Fourth World countries. All of us have already heard these names before, read about them and maybe seen photos of people affected by them. Yet few of us have a deeper knowledge about these diseases.

To give you a closer insight into the work of the humedica medical teams, we would like to present some of the most frequent diseases to you more in detail. How and where do these diseases develop? What are their symptoms, ways of infection and possibilities of treatment? Where has humedica been able to intervene so far?

Cholera

Cholera is a diarrhoeal disease caused by a pathogenic agent called Vibrio cholerae. The disease is most predominant in developing countries where drinking water has been polluted with the cholera agent due to insufficient sanitation or a lack of hygiene.

The causative organisms enter the body through the consumption of contaminated water or spoiled food and cause severe diarrhoea, sickness, vomiting and stomach ache. Patients with a severe course of the disease lose up to 20 litres of fluid in a day. If not treated, cholera is fatal for about 60% of the patients who are severely affected by it.

Even though cholera runs a relatively mild course in the majority of cases, a replacement of lost fluid, salts and sugar is essential for all patients. In severe cases, patients need to receive intravenous fluid and antibiotics very urgently to have a chance to survive. If these measures are taken, the mortality rate can be reduced to less than one per cent.

Due to the fact that people easily become infected with cholera, there is a high danger that the disease spreads quickly and causes an epidemic. This is especially the case in poor countries or disaster areas, where it is difficult or almost impossible to respect hygienic standards and guarantee access to clean drinking water. In addition, there is often a lack of medical care and adequate therapy in the regions affected by a cholera outbreak.

As an organisation that provides medical emergency and disaster aid in Third World countries on a regular basis, humedica is often confronted with cholera patients. The cholera epidemic that broke out in Haiti in 2010 represented such a challenge for the organisation.

Shortly after the outbreak of the disease, humedica was able to take over the management of a hospital in the affected region of Artibonite and, since then, has run an official cholera treatment centre there.

Other countries where humedica teams have helped cholera patients are Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Benin and Sudan.

At the end of October 2010, a cholera epidemic broke out in Haiti. humedica was active in Haiti at that time already and was thus able to help people immediately. Photo: humedica

This article contains information from the following sources (German): Onmeda health portal, the Federal Foreign Office of Germany and DocCheck Medical Services GmbH.

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