Cholera is back with us.
The 20 cases so far reported are a wake-up call to the lurking dangers of diseases that continue to stalk the nation and the capital city in particular.
There is nothing mysterious about cholera. It is a disease caused by Vibrio cholerae, a bacterium usually found in food or water contaminated by faeces from a person with the infection. If follows therefore that the disease can only come about from contaminated water supplies or indeed, foods and drinks sold by street vendors, vegetables grown with water containing human waste or raw or undercooked fish and seafood caught in waters polluted with sewage.
These are conditions and circumstances that are very prevalent in our communities.
It follows therefore that any remedial or preventative measures must be directed at ensuring that conditions that favour the spread of the disease are eliminated.
This again is not a mysterious demand. It is a reality that Lusaka lacks the most basic of planning public health conditions that should be enforced by the council.
For some inexplicable reasons the council seems to have abrogated its surveillance and oversight function in the development of human settlements, as a result unplanned housing continues to mushroom in all areas of the city without challenge.
Accompanying these unplanned settlements are wells that are dug next to pit latrines and ablution blocks.
While appreciating that shelter has become a political imperative, it is important that serious conditions are attached to any form of human settlement because any lapses pose a danger to humanity.
It is better that council run a gauntlet against illegal settlers than face the political fallout to deaths from cholera and other environment related conditions.
We have no doubt that the council employs sufficient numbers of public health officers who are equipped with transport and diagnostic tools to provide early warnings to potential community health dangers.
There is therefore no reason why the city should be overwhelmed by a sudden outbreak of cholera after the spell of wet weather. This should have been expected and planned for.
There is nothing to feel ashamed about the outbreak. Cholera is a disease with a fairly “distinguished” origin. It was prevalent in the United States, but this was before modern water and sewage treatment systems were introduced.
To date however a number of cases are still reported in the USA and many other developed countries because some diseases such as cholera are no respecters of a nation’s social status, they thrive in conditions and circumstances that encourage it to thrive.
To date the disease remains common and prevalent in Africa, south Asia, and Latin America where conditions continue to be rudimentary.
The most immediate preventative measure is to boil water used by the family. At the same time civic authorities must exercise more care in allowing or indeed condeming human settlements that bear the danger of spreading life-threatening diseases.