While the world’s eyes have been on Haiti’s growing cholera outbreak, the U.N. reported this week that 1,500 people in Nigeria have lost their lives to the illness, with three other African nations fighting the same thing.
But according to the World Health Organization, cholera is not as rare around the world as it may seem to us in the U.S.
As of this month, four African nations – Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger – have reported more than 40,000 cases of cholera and more than 2,000 deaths. And Pakistan, a country that is still suffering from the effects of horrific floods, also is reporting 100+ cases of cholera since last month.
Why so many outbreaks? Experts say it all depends on the conditions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are an estimated 3 to 5 million reported cholera cases and 100,000 to 120,000 deaths due to cholera every year.
Cholera is caused by unsanitary conditions that pollute the water. In all of the outbreaks mentioned, unclean water is the suspected factor. There are two ways cholera (Vibrio cholerae) usually gets into water or food: Through contaminated feces or naturally.