Haunted by Haiti’s cholera outbreak, health officials worry that conditions are ripe for an outbreak of water-borne diseases in Nepal following Saturday’s earthquake.
While the WHO has not seen any cholera cases yet, people are living in crowded tent camps with poor water and sanitation—and cholera is endemic to Nepal. Furthermore, Nepal’s rainy season, when cholera tends to spike, is just a few weeks away.
The WHO approved a cholera vaccine in 2011, but "production is not yet ramped up,” said David Sack, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of its cholera-vaccine project. However, the global stockpile could be deployed to try to confine the infection if a cluster of cases is identified. Sack noted that cholera is unpredictable, and sometimes the threat is never realized in disaster areas.