Vientiane, Lao PDR, 25 August 2018 – The Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF and the World Health Organization has launched the first ever cholera vaccination campaign in Lao PDR targeting flood-affected communities.
During the first phase of the cholera vaccination campaign from 23 to 30 August, about 5,000 doses will be administered to flood-affected communities in Sanamxai district. An additional 19,700 doses will be used in a second round. In total, 12,350 people will receive the two doses of the vaccine administered in two phases of this campaign until September 2018.
“Cholera is a devastating disease which can spreads quickly and kills fast. Increased risks can be seen after severe flooding. The Ministry of Health has been monitoring 15 communicable diseases to protect against potential outbreaks, and this vaccination campaign along with the efforts made to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) will protect the people living in the shelters,” stated Assoc. Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong, Health Minister.
Cholera is a serious bacterial disease that usually causes acute severe diarrhoea and dehydration. It is caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with faecal material that contains the bacterium Vibrio Cholera. It affects both children and adults and can kill within hours. The short incubation period of two hours to five days, enhances the potentially explosive pattern of outbreaks.
“Considering the water and sanitation conditions in the overcrowded shelters and the increased risk of disease outbreaks during this rainy season, we need to support the Ministry of Health to take all possible measures to prevent cholera and other water and vector borne diseases. There is not currently a cholera outbreak in the country, but preventive measures are to be taken given the circumstances,” said Dr Juliet Fleischl, WHO Representative to Lao PDR.
Cholera occurs mainly in areas where there is open defecation, poor sanitation and personal hygiene, and a lack of clean drinking water. In some areas where latrines and toilet areas are in close proximity, it can contaminate surface water, shallow dug wells and boreholes including piped water; when a person’s hands contaminated with faecal material touches food, fruits or in contact with stored water.
“UNICEF is working with partners to provide training and support for activities that engage and educate communities about communicable diseases including cholera, putting emphasis on hygiene promotion. Trained staff have been deployed in the affected area to spread the word through social mobilisation in the camps. In addition, we are scaling up water, sanitation and hygiene efforts to ensure affected populations have access to clean water and sanitation facilities,” explained Myo Zin Nyunt, UNICEF Acting Representative to Lao PDR.
For the cholera vaccination campaign, seven mobile teams, comprising of 3-4 members, and other two teams based in the primary camp in Sanamxay district are carrying out the vaccination activities covering emergency shelters and host communities through door-to-door service. Teams are also organising awareness sessions and spreading messages on hygiene, food preparation, management of acute diarrhea and oral rehydration.
WHO recommends that vaccination against cholera be considered in emergencies like severe flooding where there are increased threats of outbreaks, when combined with standard prevention and control measures for the disease. These measures include readiness to provide adequate testing and treatment, steps to ensure access to safe water and sanitation, and community mobilization to engage the public in preventing infection.
Data have shown oral cholera vaccines to be safe and effective in humanitarian crises with high risk of cholera. The vaccines should always be used in conjunction with other cholera prevention and control strategies
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