Authorities enacted a curfew on Sunday, January 7, in Kanyama, an impoverished Lusaka township hit hard by an ongoing cholera outbreak that has infected over 2200 people - leaving 58 dead - across the country since September. The nightly curfew will run from 18:00 to 06:00 (local time) until further notice. Additional cases of cholera are expected in Lusaka and other regions of Zambia in the coming weeks; the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the spread may accelerate as the rainy season progresses.
Other areas of the capital hit hard by the outbreak include Kanyama, Chelston, Chilenje, Matero, Bauleni, Chawama, and Chipata. The Zambian Ministry of Health has closed several restaurants, buried shallow wells, and expanded access to potable water in Lusaka in response to the outbreak. Furthermore, street food vendors and public gatherings have been banned in the city, although Kanyama residents had reportedly been defying this order in the evenings. The University of Zambia has been closed since January 5; it is unclear when it will resume operations.
Cholera is an infectious disease caused by Vibrio cholerae bacteria that can induce acute diarrhea. The risk of death is greatest among people with compromised immune systems, such as malnourished children or those living with HIV. However, even among healthy adults, cholera can be fatal within a matter of hours. There are frequent outbreaks of cholera in Zambia during the rainy season due to contaminated water, poor sanitation, and overcrowded slums. Zambia's worst cholera outbreak in 2010 affected 4500 people and resulted in 120 deaths.
To reduce the risk of contracting cholera, wash hands regularly, drink only bottled or purified water, and avoid eating raw or undercooked foods. Individuals who believe they may have contracted cholera should seek immediate medical attention.
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