More vaccines set to boost fight against cholera

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Providing clean water and sanitation along with vaccination is key to preventing cholera outbreaks, WHO says. Photo: UNHCR/B. Loyseau

Efforts to bring cholera deaths down to zero have been stepped up amid news that disease levels are unchanged, UN health experts said Monday.

Conflict and displacement has fuelled the spread of the water-borne disease in countries such as South Sudan and Tanzania.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) believes it's winning the public health battle in endemic hotspots and emergency situations, thanks largely to a big rise in the number of vaccines available.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Cholera is a horrible disease that can kill without prompt treatment; it's an acute intestinal infection caused by  contaminated food or water.

Latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that there were more than 140,000 reported cases of cholera globally and more than 2,000 deaths in 2014.

Last year also saw major outbreaks in Haiti, Ghana, South Sudan, India and Bangladesh.

But the UN agency believes it's made real progress in stopping the disease in its tracks, by massively increasing the amount of oral cholera vaccine (OCV) available.

Until the late 1990s the vaccine was mainly available just to tourists.

But in 2015, WHO expects three million vaccines to be on hand, with funding from UN partner the GAVI Alliance.

Here's WHO's Dr Dominique Legros:

"Really it works as a sort of key to the door, it shows that something can be done, that impact can be achieved very quickly with the vaccine."

While the vaccine is a welcome development, on its own it won't see cholera cases brought down to zero.

For that to happen, WHO says communities need better sanitation and access to safe water.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'05"


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