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Stay Healthy: UPTH’s Guide to Preventing Gastrointestinal Illness

 Stay Healthy: UPTH’s Guide to Preventing Gastrointestinal Illness

Amid ongoing discussions about gastrointestinal health across regions, the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) stands ready to manage potential cholera cases. Dr. Mary Alex-Wele, Head of the Department of Microbiology and the hospital’s focal person for Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), discusses UPTH’s preparedness and strategies in dealing with this acute diarrheal disease.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It primarily affects the gastrointestinal tract, leading to sudden-onset symptoms such as frequent, loose, and watery stools. Vomiting may also accompany diarrhea, especially in children. Cholera spreads primarily through ingesting food or water contaminated with the bacteria.

Symptoms of cholera can vary widely, from mild gastrointestinal discomfort to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Severe cases can progress rapidly, leading to weakness, extreme thirst, and potentially life-threatening complications if not treated promptly.

The transmission of cholera occurs through the faeco-oral route, meaning the bacteria are passed in the feces of infected individuals and can contaminate water or food sources if proper hygiene and sanitation practices are not observed. Key preventive measures include:

  • Water: Ensuring access to clean and safe drinking water to prevent contamination.
  • Sanitation: Proper disposal of feces and maintenance of clean sanitation facilities.
  • Hygiene: Regular handwashing with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and before handling food.

Waste Management: Effective management of waste to prevent environmental contamination.

**Dr. Alex-Wele explaining further on precautions from infection encouraged the public including health officers to use alcohol-based handrub when the hands are not visibly soiled. For food and and drugs to prepare and consume food safely, is to cook food properly, eat while warm. Wash fruits and vegetables with clean water before consumption.
Keep food neatly covered to protect from contamination. Boil water before drinking

At the communal level, the advise is to stop open defecation, ensure toilets are properly cleaned and are at a safe distance from source of drinking water
She underscores the importance of these preventive measures and advises prompt medical attention if cholera symptoms, such as severe diarrhea and vomiting, occur. Mild cases can often be managed with Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS), while severe cases require immediate medical intervention with intravenous fluids and supportive care.

By understanding the disease and practicing good hygiene habits, individuals can play a crucial role in preventing the spread of cholera and safeguarding their health and the health of their communities.

                       -Vera Daye

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The University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital treats well over 400,000 out-patients per annum, over 10,000 in-patients per annum and well over 3000 surgeries per annum.

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