Title: The Third World Killer “Vibrio cholerae”
Author: Nick Hawkins
Date: December 7, 2010

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Vibrio cholerae has taken the world by storm in the past 200 years and is still a major threat in many undeveloped countries. This bacteria infects a clean water supply and then anyone in contact with this water can be infected. Vibrio cholerae attacks the small intestine and cause severe diareaha which leads to dehydration and can result in death. After a town or village’s water supply is contaminated it is very hard to stop the spread of this bacteria and can cause large numbers of death if it is not treated properly. The area that is most effected by Cholera in the last 10 years is Africa and Asia. In more recent news the Americans had not had problems lately with Cholera until this October in Haiti which has killed over 4000 and almost 100000 are now infected. Cholera circles the world looking for poor water supply’s to infect. The history of Vibrio cholerae is very interesting and it was not always outside of the United States, in the 1800’s Cholera was one of the main causes of death throughout our country.

Cholera is a very interesting disease to me because of its rich history. I first learned about the disease when I was studying the California Gold Rush and found out that one of my great relatives died of Cholera just after he had struck it rich in the gold fields. I thought it was a tragic story but showed that this disease was a major problem throughout the world and when you watch the news you can see it still is today. The Haiti Outbreak is what brought it up again recently and since I am eager to do some world traveling, starting with Costa Rica this January, I want to be well versed in some of the leading diseases so I can stay healthy. The WHO shows that Vibrio cholerae is making a comeback with a 16% rise in cases from 2008 to 2009 (World Health Organization, 2009).


Cholera became a human threat in the early 1800’s when the first epidemic was found in Calcutta India, since then it has killed millions in seven recorded Pandemics. Calcutta is in the Ganges River Delta in India and this was a major trade area for most of the world in the this time so the disease was able to spread through the world with the trade lines. This first Pandemic traveled to the middle east all throughout asia and hit the Mediterranean Coast. As with many new diseases medical technology is very poor and so hundreds of thousands died over a 20 year span. After 1823 the disease was not found anywhere in the world except the Bay of Bengal.
Unfortunately the disease was only silent for about 6 years in 1829 the this spread to the russia and was the most famous for the cholera riots. The people thought that the government run by the tzar was infecting people and the consperiousy grew to huge roits throughout cities in russia. This being the second pandemic showed that this disease was still growing and was the first time that it reached North America. It got to North America by the Irish who were fleeing because of the Potato Famine.
The Third Pandemic was the largest of the seven in the terms of death and the most important because it was the first time that a scientist was able to track the disease and found that it travelled by water. The professor was named John Snow. This is also the Pandemic that runs closest to home for me because it ravaged the California Gold Fields and the Oregon Trail. All the people that are coming west really had to battle this disease and the death rate was very high because while they were traveling there was no doctors or medicine to help them. I have researched and found through family letters that one of my great relatives was one of the victims of this pandemic.
There are three more pandemics that run throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. These went from the mid 1800’s to the the early 1900’s. The death rates over this time seem to get better because of Snows findings but while people are beginning to travel more the spread is still dramatic.
Present Outbreaks:
The present Outbreak that we are all focused on is Haiti. They suffered a horrible earthquake in January 2009. Then nine months later Vibrio cholerae had reached the torn apart country. They have found that the disease strain came from southeast Asia but they do not know an exact country or location. Many people in the country believe that it was brought there by Nepal peace workers but if people know for sure it has not reached the media. So far in Haiti it has over 4000 deaths as of November 28th and 90000 people infected. The reason it is spreading so rampantly in Haiti is they have no clean water and most of there sewage flows right into the river. This means that anyone downstream of an infected area is in trouble.
Haiti does have a lot of aid right now though through the WHO trying to help. The problem is the money that they asked for from the United Nations is not coming so all that can be done is not. They are working with about 4 main health centers and then many smaller clinics. This is not adequate for the mass amounts of cases that are being reported.
Haiti is close to home so we see a lot about it but Cholera is a constant battle for Africa and has been for the last 50 years. They have thousands of deaths a year and have the highest death percentage of any continent according to the WHO. The countries that are most effected are Nigeria, South Africa, and the Congo. These starving people can not find clean food or water so it is a utopia for the disease everything is correct for mass spread. To help these people we need to help get clean water in these areas and more importantly clean sewage. Once you can control the sewage you can control the disease.

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The Microbe:
Vibrio cholerae is a Comma shaped bacteria with a long flagellum that allows it to move. This is gram negative which means that certain antibiotics will work on the bug but these are not given out regularly because of the price. How this bacteria works is it enters the body through contaminated water or food. After it has entered the body it embeds itself into the soft membrane of the small intestine and then excretes Cholera Toxin. Cholera Toxin makes the small intestine secrete excessive amounts of mucous and this causes watery diarrhea and vomiting. The way to help is to try and orally hydrated but once a victim has reached the critical point they will die of dehydration because the body can not keep in fluids. Advanced medicine can keep you alive with an intravenous drip of a hydrating solution but this is not available in most third world country’s.
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The ways to prevent Cholera seem like they would be easy but in developing countries it is very difficult to have clean water and sewage controlled.

Cholera is a double edged sword once it has been added to a developing country and a great example is Haiti. We see that once it is introduced it spreads rapidly and is very difficult to control. The best way to the control as always is prevention so it is necessary if we want to see an end to these pandemics to clean up water supply’s and show people how to properly dispose of waste so that it will not enter the water shed contaminated. The problem is this will not happen because of the cost of these things.

"Choléra, 2009." Weekly Epidemiological Record 85.31 (2010): 293-307. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 7 Dec. 2010.