Cholera in Nigeria: Understanding Your Risk and Simple Treatment Options

Dr. Okenye, the village doctor, explains why Nigerians are particularly vulnerable to cholera and provides essential, easy-to-follow guidance on identifying risks and administering life-saving treatments at home.

2 mins read
Cholera, Nigeria,

Health authorities declared a cholera outbreak in Lagos on 15 June 2024 when 436 suspected were reported. Six days later, there were more than 500 suspected and 43 confirmed cases, with a 5.4% case fatality rate among the suspected cases reported. Cholera is an acute and virulent infection.

Hello, my village people. It’s Dr. Okenye, your village doctor. I have come again. By now, you all know about the ongoing cholera outbreak situation in Nigeria. Today, I want to tell you why you are at a higher risk for cholera simply by being a Nigerian and living in Nigeria:

  1. Exposure to poor sanitary conditions: I lived in Ikorodu, and I believe some places still depend on wells, which are known sources of large-scale cholera outbreaks. If you live in crowded conditions, face-me-I-face-you, refugee camps, or even Lekki (that lagoon is not clean), you are at risk.
  2. You are taking PPIs: Cholera bacteria cannot survive in the harsh acidic conditions of the stomach. But those of you taking PPIs like omeprazole or pantoprazole to treat acid reflux and ulcers from all those spicy foods already have low acid levels in your stomach, which increases your risk.
  3. Type O blood group: Many Nigerians have type O blood, and for reasons not clear, this puts you at increased risk compared to people with other blood types.
  4. You eat raw or undercooked shellfish, fruits, and vegetables: Nigeria is literally on the West African coast, and many of you like shellfish, like crab and oysters. Some people don’t have the patience to cook these foods well. In fact, sometimes the waters these crabs come from are contaminated with feces and cholera bacteria through and through.

Read Okenye’s post on Sweat vs. Spirits: The Powerful Interplay of Exercise and Alcohol on Your Health and What Does It Mean to Be Lactose Intolerant: Causes, Symptoms, and Testing

Treatment for Cholera

I’ll share with you two straightforward methods for treating cholera that you can implement even before seeking medical attention. It’s important to understand that cholera, despite its severity, is actually quite manageable with proper care.

  1. Rehydration: My people, cholera is not the same thing as the pandemic that we just came out of that starts with C. There are not many diseases that you treat by simple rehydration. Thank God that this is the mainstay of treatment.

    The problem is that most Nigerians are dehydrated. You go out to work and come home, and you never drink water. Then you get cholera, and you’re in trouble. It’s important to note that with hydration, fatality drops to less than 1%.

    Many places don’t have access to ORS fluids, but I want to teach you how to make this solution by yourself at home so you can begin taking it immediately if you test positive for cholera or suspect symptoms. Take 1L of boiled water and add 6 teaspoons of table sugar and ½ level teaspoon of table salt. Your tasty ORS fluid is ready. You need to know this as it could very well save your life or your family’s.
  2. Zinc supplement: This is especially important as it may shorten how long the illness lasts in children and decrease diarrhea symptoms.

Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor before starting any new medication or treatment. This publication and authors does not endorse or recommend any specific medication and is not liable for any adverse effects from the use of this information. You can learn more about Dr. Emmanuel Okenye.

Emmanuel Okenye

Dr. Emmanuel Okenye, DO is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences/College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific. He is ABIM board-certified and practices both outpatient at Evergreen Family Medicine and inpatient at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, Oregon.

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