Cholera hits Mexico, Central America on alert

An outbreak of cholera in Hidalgo State and the neighboring Federal District of Mexico City has caused 79 cases of disease, including one fatality. The source of the outbreak is still unclear.

The strain of cholera currently affecting Mexico is Vibrio cholerae O:1 Ogawa toxigenic. Prior to this outbreak, cholera has not been seen in Mexico in just over ten years. PAHO and the WHO included Mexico in its latest Epidemiological Alert.

Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. This bacterium is usually found in contaminated water or food sources, but it can also be found in the environment, in rivers and coastal waters. An estimated 3 – 5 million cases and over 100,000 deaths occur globally each year. However, if treated properly with prompt rehydration, fewer than 1 percent of cholera patients die.

Individuals can avoid infection with cholera by drinking only bottled, boiled, or treated water, and by washing hands often with soap and clean water. National governments can prevent the spread of the disease by improving water security and sanitation infrastructure.

Mexico is working to curb the outbreak by heightening surveillance and prevention measures, with one state even reportedly testing swabs from bus bathrooms.

A number of Central American countries, including Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador, are reported to have issued cholera alerts in response to the Mexico outbreak. A devastating outbreak in Latin America in the 1990s caused 10,000 deaths, and despite improvements in infrastructure and surveillance since that time, the memory of this outbreak has left the region concerned at the prospect of a repeat attack.



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