Wednesday, June 22, 2011
How Cholera Kills
If you're from the developed world and you hear the word diarrhea, you probably think of a runny, brown substance, like liquid stool. The picture above is of a bucket containing diarrhea from a patient who has cholera. As you can see, it looks like water: hence its deadliness. Cholera, a bacterial infection, can cause copious vomiting and diarrhea. Fluids are leached from the body, severe dehydration ensues, and if untreated, death can occur within hours. Because of its watery appearance, cholera diarrhea is often referred to as "rice water."
After its initial outbreak last October, cholera is surging again in Haiti, abetted by the recent rains, which have spread the bacteria. John is currently working at a Cholera Treatment Center at Hopital Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles Haiti, in the Artibonite Valley, where cholera was introduced to Haiti, most likely by UN troops. You can read about his work at a blog he his writing for our hometown newspaper, the Peoria Journal Star.
The good news about cholera is, though it is deadly, it is easily treated with fluids. People who are practically comatose are sitting up and talking after a couple of hours of IV fluids.
The bad news for Haitians is that cholera is often not the only health problem they are battling. In the picture above, which John took at the Cholera Treatment Center today, you can see a large, white worm that was excreted out with the fluid in the bucket. As John said, "Chronic worms and acute cholera."