Cholera Outbreak Warning Issued
The first cholera outbreak in nearly three decades in Lebanon is currently spreading to every governorate in the country.
Since the first case was confirmed on October 5, 2022, over 1,400 suspected cases have been reported across the country, including 381 laboratory-confirmed cases and 17 deaths.
While the outbreak was initially confined to northern districts, it rapidly spread.
Serotype Vibrio cholerae O1 El-Tor Ogawa was identified as the currently circulating cholera strain, similar to the one circulating in Syria, reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) on October 31, 2022.
"Cholera is deadly but also preventable through vaccines and access to safe water and sanitation. In addition, it can be easily treated with timely oral rehydration or antibiotics for more severe cases," commented Dr. Abdinasir Abubakar, WHO Representative in Lebanon, in a press release.
Given the shortage of both health staff and medical supplies in the country, WHO has provided two reference laboratories, three prisons, and 12 hospitals designated for cholera treatment with laboratory reagents, treatment kits, and rapid diagnostic tests, and deployed nurses and doctors as surge capacity to hospitals in the most affected areas.
Despite global shortages in cholera vaccines, WHO is supporting the Ministry of Public Health to secure 600,000 doses of cholera vaccine.
Additional efforts to ensure more doses are ongoing, given the outbreak's rapid spread.
"The best way to prevent a cholera outbreak is to ensure people have access to clean water and appropriate sanitation and hygiene."
"In the long term, we need to scale up global vaccine availability as part of a holistic strategy to prevent and stop cholera outbreaks worldwide," Dr. Abubakar emphasizes.
Currently, there are three WHO pre-qualified oral cholera vaccines: Dukoral®, Shanchol™, and Euvichol®, mainly used for travelers.
All three vaccines require two doses for complete protection.
The U.S. CDC vaccine committee published their recommendations for using lyophilized CVD 103-HgR vaccine (CVD 103-HgR) Vaxchora® on September 30, 2022.
However, Vaxchora is currently unavailable in the U.S.
In addition to cholera, the U.S. CDC suggests various vaccinations before visiting Lebanon.
Note: The WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean will conduct a digital press conference at 16:00 Cairo time (GMT+2) www.youtube.com/whoemr on the cholera outbreak updates in the Eastern Mediterranean Region with a focus on the situation in Syria and Lebanon on Nov. 2, 2022.