Mexico has reported at least 176 cases of cholera and at least one death from the disease since health officials first reported the disease on September 9. Health officials believe the strain of cholera in Mexico is the same South Asian cholera strain that was introduced to Haiti three years ago. Officials from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) believe that the disease has a very high probability of spreading throughout the country, especially in regions with particularly poor water and food sanitation. Recent hurricanes and tropical storms that have caused heavy flooding and displacement of large populations of people could also be a contributing factor to the high number of confirmed cases in the past month.
Mexico has not seen local transmission of cholera since an epidemic in 1991 – 2001.
Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholera. While the infection is usually mild or without obvious symptoms, severe cases (about five percent of infections) will require hospitalization due to dehydration and shock from loss of fluids. Symptoms for the most severe cases include watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. If left without proper treatment, these cases will lead to death within a few hours. If infected, an individual can begin to display symptoms anywhere from a few hours to five days after infection. The current treatment for cholera infections is fluid replacement with intravenous or oral rehydration solutions containing a mixture of sugars and salts.
Although no longer as common worldwide, cholera is still highly prominent in regions with poor water sanitation and is spread from person to person through water or food contaminated with feces. Raw and undercooked shellfish can also be sources of cholera if they were fished in an area were the water was contaminated. In the United States and England, cholera outbreaks were very prominent in the 1800s when sewage treatment systems were inadequate, but modern waste water treatment plants have eliminated the spread of the disease. Because cholera continues to be a public health concern for many developing countries, the CDC recommends that travelers to areas with epidemic cholera should drink only boiled or bottled water, and eat foods that are either pre-packaged or freshly cooked and served hot. Washing hands frequently with soap or hot water (or with alcohol-based cleaners with at least 60 percent alcohol) is also recommended. Travelers should also check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health website for more recommendations for specific areas of interest.
The bulk of Mexico’s cholera cases are in the state of Hidalgo (157 cases), with nine cases in the state of Mexico, six in Veracruz, and two in San Luis Postosi. According to the WHO, this particular strain is susceptible to doxycycline and chloramphenicol. This means that the aforementioned antibiotics should be useful in treating those infected.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Cholera – Vibrio cholerae infection. Atlanta: , Web. <http://www.cdc.gov/cholera/general/index.html>.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Traveler's Health. Atlanta: , Web. <http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/>.
Knox, Richard. "Haitian Cholera Strain Spreads To Mexico." National Public Radio (NPR). (2013): n. page. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/10/23/239803890/haitian-cholera-strain-spreads-to-mainland-with-mexico-outbreak>.
LeBlond , Lawrence. "Cholera Outbreak Gripping Mexico, 171 Confirmed Cases." (2013): n. page. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1112979824/cholera-outbreak-mexico-one-death-171-cases-102113/>.
Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Atlanta: , Web. <http://www.paho.org/usa/>.
World Health Organization (WHO). Cholera in Mexico – Update. Web. http://www.who.int/csr/don/2013_10_28/en/index.html.