Cholera Outbreak Gripping Mexico, 171 Confirmed Cases
October 21, 2013

Cholera Outbreak Gripping Mexico, 171 Confirmed Cases

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Last month, Mexico was affected by a hurricane and tropical storm that dumped heavy rain on the region, causing floods, landslides and displacement of large numbers of people. Health experts noted that the disaster may have contributed to the growing number of cholera cases that are now also affecting the region, which first became evident around the second week of September.

Mexico’s Ministry of Health has reported a total of 171 cases of infection with cholera to the World Health Organization (WHO) between Sept 9 and Oct 18, 2013.

Of the confirmed cases of cholera, the largest outbreak has occurred in the state of Hidalgo, accounting for 157 cases. An additional nine cases have occurred in the state of Mexico. Two cases have been reported from the Federal District, as well as two from the state of Veracruz. A single case has also been reported in the state of San Luis Potosi.

Cholera infection has occurred in 86 women and 85 men, with ages ranging from three months to 88 years old. A total of 39 cases have resulted in hospitalization and there has been one death linked to the infection.

Health authorities in Mexico continue to investigate the outbreak, stepping up surveillance methods at a national level and working to ensure that quality care is available at medical units throughout the region. Experts are training health professionals on how best to handle the outbreak, with information on prevention, treatment and control of the disease.

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The infection is known to cause watery diarrhea and volatile vomiting. Transmission of the bacteria occurs primarily by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated by the feces of infected persons. In severe cases hospitalization is required. Severe cholera can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance and, in rare cases, death can occur if not treated.

Primary treatment of cholera consists of oral rehydration therapy with a typical rehydration solution to help replace vital nutrients lost during illness. If oral rehydration is not tolerated or does not provide relief quickly enough, intravenous methods are used. In some cases, antibacterial medicines are used to shorten the duration and severity of the illness.

Cholera affects upwards of five million people each year around the world and has caused between 100,000 and 130,000 deaths annually since 2010.

In Mexico, the Ministry of Health said that treatment of cholera is continuing and currently eight in 10 cases are treated successfully. The Ministry said another 3,075 “probable cases” have also been detected, according to a Reuters report last week.

The source of the outbreak is believed to be the Rio Tecoluco in Hidalgo, which has recently tested positive for cholera. The Rio Tecoluco provides fresh water to local residents, David Korenfeld, head of Mexico’s national water commission, told Reuters.

According to the WHO report, this is the first local transmission of cholera recorded since the 1991-2001 cholera epidemic in Mexico. Genetic analysis of the bacterium obtained from patients in the current outbreak presents a 95 percent similarity with the strain that is currently circulating in three Caribbean countries (Haiti, Dominican Republic and Cuba). The current strain is different from the strain that caused the 1991-2001 epidemic in Mexico.

Based on current information, the WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions with Mexico in respect to this outbreak.