Ready or Not #188: Cholera

Oh boy, did I see this coming.  Actually, just about every emergency responder in Haiti saw it coming – the outbreak of cholera, and sometimes even worse – the fear of cholera.  There has been rioting in the streets about the location of building treatment centers because the people are afraid of the possibility of getting infected.  Scary times and it is all justified – nearly 300 have died and more than 4,000 are sick.  Have I mentioned how important it is to have clean water for drinking and sanitation?  Yes I have!  And I think that it is even more important now.  Just remember: Two gallons per person, per day, for a two week period.

Right now I can hear everyone saying, *But Dawn, it has been a lot longer than two weeks since the disaster in Haiti,* and yes you would be right, but you have to start somewhere.  For Christmas this year I am buying the 250 gallon Super Tanker water storage unit (Merry Christmas to me) that I wrote about in article #177 * Super Tanker .  After writing the article I kept looking around for a supplier that was closer to my home and I found the tankers for even cheaper at Macey*s grocery store in Utah * they are only $299.  That is only a little over a dollar per gallon and as far as piece-of-mind, invaluable

Now back to the cholera.  Cholera is a very nasty disease of which the last outbreak in the United States was back in 1910-1911.  The reason that it really isn’t a problem in the U.S. today is because of the quality of our regulated water delivery systems and our human waste treatment facilities.  In third world countries, OR PLACES THAT ARE INVOLVED IN DISASTERS that don’t have a trusted water source, cholera can break out because of poor water conditions and improper human waste disposal.  The symptoms of cholera include: watery feces with a mild, fishy smell and bits of mucus , feeling sick and vomiting, having abdominal (tummy) cramps, being dehydrated, and having a fever (this is rare and usually only occurs in children.)  The symptoms can occur within a couple of hours or up to five days after coming in contact with it. Yuck!

Part of the reason that cholera is so deadly is because you get extremely dehydrated and your electrolytes get out of balance because of extreme diarrhea and vomiting; having an imbalance of electrolytes in your system can make you miserable at the least, and dead at the worst.  You can actually buy pre-made electrolyte solutions at the pharmacy and they even have electrolyte popsicle for small children so that it will be more palatable.  Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration and seek medical attention to take care of the problem quickly and safely.

If you are in a situation and you need your electrolytes restored, but don’t have access to a doctor, a good basic recipe is to boil 1-liter of water and add 1-teaspoon of table salt, 8-teaspoons of table sugar, and a source of potassium – a banana will provide the potassium (and help with the taste) or you can use potassium pills if available (If you are too low on potassium you can go into a coma and die – very bad).  There are more recipes on the internet that you can research, but it would be easier to get a pre-mixed source so that it has the proper dosage to effectively help you get better.

If you do have a problem with cholera, know that it spreads very quickly and easily and you will need to take special care to isolate those who are infected.  It is also imperative that anything they touch will need to be disinfected and cleaned thoroughly.  This includes cleaning and disinfecting your hands after helping the infected individuals.

To avoid these problems during a disaster, just make sure to dispose of human waste properly, always maintain an effective sanitary program and stay HYDRATED!  That means drink a lot of water.

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