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Traders, Tricycle Riders Unaware Of Cholera Outbreak In Lagos As Cases Surge

The Lagos State Government recently confirmed the outbreak of cholera in the state. THE WHISTLER reports that cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.

It is a noxious disease transmitted through consumption of contaminated food or water.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “Cholera can cause severe acute watery diarrhoea and the severe forms of the disease can kill within hours if left untreated.”

However, findings by THE WHISTLER showed that some traders, tricycle and motorcycle (Okada) riders in the Alimosho area of the state are not aware of the outbreak of the disease.

A trader, who identified himself as Sunday Christopher, told THE WHISTLER that he did not know about the outbreak.

“I’m not aware of the outbreak of the disease,” he said with an expression of shock on his face.

“Now that I’m aware, I’ll make sure that I drink clean water. And anything concerning dirty food, I’ll stay away from it. I’ll be conscious of the kind of restaurant that I go to.”

Christian Edoga is another trader who is unaware of the outbreak. Just like the two traders aforementioned, Nurudeen Akintola, a tricycle rider, did not know about the disease outbreak.

Also, Samson Itoro, an Okada rider, said he was just hearing about it. “I’m just hearing it now,” he said.

But Blessing Emmanuel, a trader who said she had heard about the outbreak, expressed worry over some of the sachet and table water produced in the state, saying some of them are not good for consumption.

“Some of the pure water and table water produced in this area are not ‘pure’ at all. Some of them are produced by people in their houses. I’ve witnessed it myself.”

Emmanuel is concerned that this could be a potential source of contracting the disease. The trader who said she does not boil water before drinking has resigned to the will of God

For Mercy Saliu, she is now mindful of keeping her environment clean and washing her hands regularly. However, she still drinks tap water. While she acknowledges that consuming tap water could expose her to the disease, she would not stop drinking tap water because of economic reasons.

Saliu, a petty trader, would love to boil the tap water from her compound before drinking it, but she complained of the high cost of cooking gas, also known as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

“Do you know how much gas is sold now?” She asked rhetorically. “I’m staying with my sister and she has a kid. Do you know the quantity of water that we will have to boil everyday for the whole family? We’ve been taking the tap water for long and we’re okay. Electricity tariff is on the high side, gas price is on the high side, we just have to manage.”

Lagos is the commercial hub of Nigeria. With an estimated population of 23 million, the state is one of the most populous cities in Africa. Cholera remains a global threat to public health, and usually affects the poorest and most vulnerable populations. The Chief Executive Officer of EpidAlert, Dr Lawal Bakare, said there is need to elevate the conversation on the current outbreak by taking it down to the grassroot.

He called for intensive public enlightenment campaigns in pidgin and indigenous languages, through the use of mass media like radio and television.

Bakare also suggested leveraging community platforms like market associations, unions, community development associations, among others, to educate people on the disease.

“These are people that are exposed beyond their homes,” he said referring to traders, Okada and tricycle riders. “These people are particularly prone, and if they’re not aware they couldn’t have taken necessary precautionary measures,” he said.

“We’re talking about a risk that needs to be mitigated. And there’s no other way than to sensitize them, so that they too can control their environment, particularly the ones in the market.”

A public health expert and Executive Secretary of Health Reform Foundation, Dr Celestine Okorie, called on the government to open all channels of communication – the print and electronic media – to ensure that the people are well informed as well as engage the community.

“The public must be well-informed about this outbreak. Community engagement and involvement is very crucial in curtailing the cholera outbreak. Because there are certain health behavior that the entire public needs to engage in for the cholera outbreak to be curtailed,” Okorie told THE WHISTLER.

To break the transmission, he urged residents to ensure that they boil their water before drinking, be mindful of the food they eat, keep their environment clean, and observe basic personal hygiene like regular washing of hands with soap and water.

“Cholera can kill within hours from acute diarrhoea and dehydration. So, engaging the community through proper health education and information is crucial,” Okorie added.

Last Saturday, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, disclosed that 350 suspected cases of cholera have been reported in 29 wards across multiple LGAs in the state with 17 confirmed cases and 15 fatalities.

The state government has activated its Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) at Mainland Hospital, Yaba. This, it said, is to address the increasing number of severe gastroenteritis cases across multiple LGAs in the state.

“The laboratory investigation and test results have so far confirmed Cholera sub type O-1. This subtype is associated with more severe disease. The pattern of new cases per day varies across LGAs, according to our ongoing surveillance and monitoring updates.

“Although this is an increase from the numbers published 3 days ago, cases are now dramatically subsiding in previously affected LGAs due to our interventions and surveillance efforts, however we are recording some new cases in previously unaffected LGAs, signalling the need for residents to adhere strictly to precautionary, personal, and environmental hygiene measures,” Abayomi said.

The commissioner added that “The Directorate of Environmental Health of the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency of the Ministry of Environment, have collected samples of water sources, food and beverage samples in all the affected LGAs, while inspections of facilities are ongoing.

“We are prepositioning cholera kits in health facilities across the State. Our efforts to control the outbreak also include the distribution of Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS), public health education campaigns.”

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