Paris, France, December 13, 2012 – The Agence de Médecine Préventive (AMP) held its third annual Africhol consortium meeting in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, from November 27-28, 2012.
Established in 2009 with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Africhol aims to determine the burden of cholera in sub-Saharan Africa through a network of surveillance sites in Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, DRC, Guinea, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda. A consortium of organizations involved in the research, prevention, and control of cholera in Africa develops and implements the surveillance network.
Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It can kill within hours if left untreated. Cholera is a major public health problem in Africa. Outbreaks continue to occur due mainly to lack of clean water, poor sanitation facilities, and suboptimal food-handling practices.
An obstacle to the prevention and control of cholera in Africa is limitations in existing surveillance systems. According to estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 3-5 million cholera cases and 100,00-120,000 deaths annually, but only around 200,000 cases, and 5,000 deaths, are reported.
Africhol complements national and WHO cholera surveillance systems and works with different global networks such as the Coalition for Cholera Prevention and Control. The project generates surveillance data that informs appropriate public health interventions such as water, sanitation, and hygiene measures, as well as vaccination.
This year’s Africhol consortium meeting covered the following:
- Cholera country data from 2011-2012. All nine participating countries, with the exception of Kenya and Tanzania, saw a rise in cholera cases from 2010-2012.
- Use of cholera vaccine in Guinea. A featured presentation was the pioneer use of oral cholera vaccine in Guinea-Conakry in May/June this year during an epidemic. Almost 200,000 people received the vaccine, and case numbers in the target populations declined 2-3 weeks after delivery of the second dose (required for full immunization). The actual impact of the vaccine is still being evaluated.
- Advances and best practices in cholera diagnosis and epidemiology. In particular, the methods, work plan, and expected outcomes of a genetic sequencing study were presented; genetic sequencing represents a milestone, as it would enable countries to identify cholera strains and map the spread of the disease in Africa.
- Infectious disease modeling. A representative from the Center for Statistics & Quantitative Infectious Diseases (CSQUID), which recently joined the Africhol consortium, provided insights on how to model the number of cases to be expected during an epidemic and the number that can be prevented due to a given preventive or control measure (e.g., vaccination campaign).
Dr. Martin Mengel, Africhol Project Coordinator said: “The meeting also highlights the importance of raising awareness of endemic cholera in Africa, which has not received as much attention as epidemics elsewhere in the world caused by complex humanitarian emergencies.”
Contact: Martin Mengel, firstname.lastname@example.org