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The deadliest wake-up call. Cholera.

Authors
  • Dajer, T
Type
Published Article
Journal
Links (New York, N.Y.)
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1992
Volume
9
Issue
2
Identifiers
PMID: 12159273
Source
Medline
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

It is clear that cholera has caused an uproar in Latin America, but the meaning of the epidemic is not so certain. In January 1991, cases of cholera began to spring up along the coast north of Lima. A year later, 1/2 million people in the continent had fallen ill from the disease and over 4000 had died from it. There is not effective antibiotic of vaccine against it. Sanitation is the only "cure" for cholera, a disease which can dehydrate and kill an otherwise strong and healthy person in 6 hours. There are 4 ways of looking at the significance of the epidemic: 1) Who cares? 4000 deaths -- less and 1% of all cholera cases -- is a minuscule figure. Last year in Africa, over 11,000 cholera deaths went unnoticed by the press. 2) The Lost 80s. Economically disastrous for Latin America, the 1980s saw billions of dollars being siphoned out of the continent by multinational banks, money that should have gone into public works and water systems. 3) Just Nature Doing Her Thing. The outbreak of cholera in Latin America is simply the most recent stop of a worldwide cholera epidemic which began in Indonesia in 1961. And 4) Kids Don't Count. In 1991, some 200,000 mostly poor Latin American children died of common diarrheal diseases. Only when bad water began affecting adults was rehydration therapy emphasized. None of these 4 explanations, however, fully explains the commotions surrounding the cholera outbreak. Cholera is one of those diseases that can brand a country as backwards. At bottom, the epidemic represents an embarrassment to the ruling classes of the Latin America.

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