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Cholera and the UK: all in the past?
At one time, cholera was one of the most widespread and feared epidemics in Britain. Nowadays we rarely talk about it, but are we really in the clear? Cholera is a diarrhoeal disease brought about by ingesting food or water which has been contaminated with the bacteria Vibrio cholerae. Symptoms of the condition are both unpleasant and potentially dangerous, including profuse watery diarrhoea which, if left untreated, can cause significant dehydration. In extreme cases of cholera, the condition can be fatal. Many people may not realise that cholera is still very much a threat to global health today, as it has such strong connotations with the questionable hygiene of Victorian London. However, we’re here to explore just how much people in the UK should be concerned about cholera in the 21st century. Cholera and the UK: a brief history In the 1800s, the UK – and particularly London – was ravaged by cholera. Four major outbreaks of the condition occurred in London between 1832 and 1866, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of people. The condition was brought into Europe from the Indian subcontinent, and once it arrived in London it spread extremely rapidly. This is mainly due to poor hygiene and the spreading of misinformation. The condition was reported to be airborne, when in fact it was spread through contaminated food and water. At the time, it was not uncommon for sewage to come into contact with drinking water, making water hygiene hard to control. The Thames – the main source of drinking water for residents – became more and more polluted throughout the 19th century. The Soho district of London was particularly affected, with more than 500 people dying from the condition in just 10 days. By 1875, a project to divert waste away from the Thames was completed. The last cholera epidemic occurred in Britain in 1866. Cholera around the world Even today, cholera remains a global threat to public health. There are an estimated 1.3-4 million cases of cholera per year around the world, leading to an average of 95,000 deaths. In 2015, the World Health Organisation reported that 80% of all cholera outbreaks were arising in just five countries: Afghanistan, Haiti, Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Most cases of cholera occur within Africa and Asia, with 60% occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and a further 29% in Asia. However, cases are still reported from Europe, the Americas and Oceania. Cholera is far more common in areas without proper access to effective hygiene, making the consumption of contaminated food and water much more likely. Likewise, fatalities are much more common in areas where effective rehydration treatment can’t be easily sought. A traveller’s disease Despite its continuing global prevalence, cholera does not occur in the UK. However, UK travellers remain at risk. An average of 15 cases of cholera are reported in England and Wales each year, all occurring as the result of travelling to a high-risk location. So for travellers, awareness of the condition remains important in order to enjoy your travel experience safely. Those living or working in less sanitary conditions – such as relief workers in disaster zones or refugee camps – are most at risk. Practising good food and water hygiene is key to avoiding the condition, such as washing your hands before and after eating, and only drinking bottled water or water which has been boiled and cooled. A vaccination against cholera is also available. This offers the greatest protection for travellers against the disease. Make sure you stay safe from cholera and a host of other common travel-related conditions by getting the necessary vaccinations from Express Travel Clinic. Get in touch today by calling 0208 993 58 89 or click here to book an appointment.
A traveller’s guide to avoiding typhoid fever
Typhoid fever is an extremely serious illness, and travellers are most at risk. However, there are ways to avoid infection. With communication and travel technologies making exotic holidays and travel experiences more achievable than ever, more and more people are keen to explore as much of the world around them as possible. This is a great goal to have, as travel can really enrich both your experiences and your view of the world. However, there are also potential risks involved when it comes to travel, and one such risk is typhoid fever. Typhoid fever is common in developing countries and areas with poor sanitation. The widespread nature of the diseases means that it’s necessary to take precautions in order to travel safe. But don’t worry, we’re here to tell you everything you need to know. An introduction to typhoid fever According to the World Health Organisation, typhoid affects as many as 21.5 million people around the world every single year. Typhoid is caused by the Salmonella typhi bacteria. This bacterium passes from person to person, via the consumption of contaminated food or water, and causes potentially severe illness in the host. The bacterium makes its home in the intestinal tracts and bloodstreams of the humans it infects, and it is spread by particles of faeces belonging to carriers of the bacterium or people who are ill with the disease. It is often spread when sewage contaminates local drinking water, or the water used for washing food or crockery. Because of this, typhoid fever is especially common in areas with poor levels of sanitation. The typhoid infection usually develops over time, with symptoms arising around three weeks after the initial exposure to the bacterium. These symptoms can include high fever, stomach pains, headaches, weakness, loss of appetite, constipation and diarrhoea. Patients can also develop a red rash. If left untreated, typhoid can unfortunately be fatal. How to avoid typhoid fever when travelling The first and most vital step to avoiding typhoid infection is the receive the typhoid vaccination before you travel. If you are travelling to an area with a potential risk of typhoid (which can include most parts of the world except in industrialised regions like the US, Canada, western Europe, Japan and Australia), then it is absolutely vital that you seek out the typhoid vaccination before you leave. This vaccination is available from Express Travel Clinic. Outside of the vaccination, there are further measures you can take to protect yourself against typhoid. These include: Exclusively drink sealed, bottled water from brands you recognise. If you cannot avoid consuming local water, be sure to boil it first. Purification tablets and filters are also available from many health clinics in high risk areas. Only use ice made from bottled or purified water. Avoid flavoured ice or ice lollies. Ensure all food is cooked thoroughly and served piping hot. Avoid food which has been left out for a while. Avoid fruit and vegetables which you have not washed and peeled yourself. Don’t consume food and drink bought from street vendors. Ensure that all crockery and cutlery has been thoroughly washed before use. Get into the habit of frequent hand-washing as an extra precautionary measure. Key facts on typhoid to take away More than 21.5 million people a year suffer from typhoid fever around the world. Typhoid fever is spread through the consumption of contaminated food or water. Typhoid is most common in areas with poor sanitation levels. The Typhoid vaccination is a vital precautionary measure for travellers. Food and drink precautions can also help you avoid infection. If you’re planning a trip abroad, play it safe and get in touch with Express Travel Clinic. We can help you with the vaccinations you need to stay healthy when travelling. Call us on 0208 993 58 89 or click here