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In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

November 2, 2007

West Africa Cholera Outbreak Could Get Worse

According to international health experts nearly 300 people have died in a cholera epidemic in West Africa this year, while thousands of others have been infected. Outbreaks this year have left more than 250 dead in Guinea, 30 dead in Sierra Leone and more than 2,000 cases of cholera have been reported in Senegal. Experts state that if steps are not taken to improve West Africa's sanitation, water, and public hygiene, next year could be worse.

Cholera cases are reported year-round in West Africa, but outbreaks peak during the rainy season. Cholera, a water-borne disease, causes severe diarrhea and vomiting and sometimes death. It is spread primarily by water and food that have been contaminated with human feces. Inadequate treatment and protection of drinking water, failure to treat sewage, unsanitary disposal of excreta, poor food handling and storage practices, and poor personal hygiene are the major factors that favor its transmission. One infected person can shed enough Cholera pathogens to infect up to 1,000 persons so infected travelers can quickly spread this disease to other areas.

While health experts have praised Senegal's response to this year's crisis, they claim the disease will continue to plague the region if international donors and governments do not shift their focus from disaster relief to long-term prevention. The Red Cross is stepping up their efforts to educate West African communities about proper hygiene and to distribute anti-microbial soap and chlorine to disinfect drinking water. In addition, health experts are stating that to prevent further outbreaks, real infrastructure improvements such as investing in water distribution strategies and better sanitation conditions need to be made.

For more information, please visit:
West Africa Cholera Outbreak

U.S. Faces Potential Long Term Water Shortages

The U.S. government projects that at least 36 states will face water shortages within five years because of a combination of rising temperatures, drought, population growth, urban sprawl, waste and excess. While not at crisis levels yet, water managers will need to begin planning and taking bold steps to keep taps flowing, including conservation, recycling, desalination and stricter controls on development.

According to the latest figures available from the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. used more than 148 trillion gallons of water in 2000, which includes residential, commercial, agriculture, manufacturing and all uses of water which translates to almost 500,000 gallons per person. Florida, California and Texas lead the country in water usage and each is facing a water crisis. For example, due to urban sprawl, Florida has little land left to store water during their wet seasons, forcing the state to flush millions of gallons of excess water into the ocean to prevent flooding. In addition, the state also dumps hundreds of billions of gallons a year of treated wastewater into the Atlantic - water that could be used for irrigation.

Experts estimate that the price tag for ensuring a reliable water supply could be staggering; just upgrading pipes to handle new supplies alone, would cost the nation $300 billion over 30 years.

For more information, please visit:
U.S. Faces Potential Long Term Water Shortages

Baseline Findings Released from Integrated Child Health & Education Project

Nearly 10 million children die each year in the developing world, often from preventable diseases. Inexpensive, effective, life-saving interventions that can prevent these diseases already exist, but do not always reach children with the greatest need.

To assess the effectiveness of multiple health interventions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has joined with partners to create the Nyando Integrated Child Health and Education Project (NICHE). The project combines several proven approaches to child survival and a variety of community based implementation approaches in an impoverished rural district in western Kenya. Preliminary data from a baseline survey taken during March and April showed that among children aged 6-35 months, 21.5% had experienced an acute respiratory infection and 9.1% had experienced diarrhea in the preceding 24 hours, among other symptoms.

The families in the NICHE project face problems associated with poverty that are common in the developing world including poor access to basic sanitary facilities and young children having high rates of acute respiratory infection, diarrhea and malaria. In this study, previous programs in Kenya aimed at increasing child survival rates and improving public health, have had some success. Free distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) has resulted in high observed baseline use rates. Ongoing promotion of the Safe Water System (SWS), a combination of chlorine treatment products and containers to safely store water in the home, has resulted in reported use at baseline by 43% of households and confirmed use by 10.7% of households.

CDC has embarked on a 2-year evaluation of the project. If proven successful, this approach might serve as a blue print for child-survival programs in other regions of Kenya and elsewhere in Africa.

For more information on the report, please visit:
Nyando Integrated Child Health & Education Project


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