The future of responding to cholera outbreaks more efficiently and effectively lies on the use of remote satellite imaging to predict an impending epidemic.
The latest cholera outbreak in the Zambian capital Lusaka has forced the government to close three branches of a fast-food chain in the region.
Hungry Lion restaurant chain which boasts of being “Africa’s best-loved chicken brand” were shut after their food tested positive for the bacterium Vibrio cholera which causes cholera.
The government is on high alert after the disease killed 51 people and left more than 2, 000 sick.
The three outlets were shut down on Thursday morning, the Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya announced.
All food outlets at all shopping malls in Lusaka will be inspected for Cholera, Dr. Chilufya directed, the Lusaka Times reported.
To reassure their customers, Hungry Lion posted on twitter that they had seen the allegation concerning their restaurants and were awaiting government’s directive before releasing a full statement.
“You are our fam & we take you and your health & safety very seriously!”(sic)
Cholera, a waterborne disease infects millions of people around the world leading to thousands of deaths. Often it goes undetected until infected individuals swarm hospitals.
Studies reveal that advanced warning could help health workers prepare for the danger which can lead to better responses to the disease, saving several lives. And satellite is one way of gathering information to assess whether an outbreak would occur.
Scientists argue that cholera outbreak is tied to environmental factors such as sea surface temperature, ocean height, and biomass. Accordingly, global warming may be a contributing factor of creating a more favorable environment for the bacterium to thrive, increasing the susceptibility to at-risk areas.
Remote satellite imaging has been used in the past to gather information on an impending attack. Take for example a study in May 2017 that revealed an impending outbreak in Yemen weeks before the outbreak.
The study led by Antarpreet Jutla, a hydrologist and civil engineer at West Virginia University reiterated that the disease spread easily via water and the outbreak is made worse by warm temperatures, high precipitation and poor water infrastructure.
The Yemen’s epidemic resembled what the study had predicted. The scientists were not able to go to the war-torn Yemen, thus, information on the impending outbreak was not shared with the government. But the successful prediction gave the team confidence that their model was on the right track.
“One of the things I like,” says Michael Wimberly, an ecologist at South Dakota State University, is that they are not looking “only at correlation to rainfall.” Wimberly uses remote-sensing technologies to monitor diseases like West Nile virus, and was not involved in the study. He says the cholera model is well grounded in hydrology and epidemiology. “They have an understanding of different types of epidemics that occur in different seasons; it’s very sophisticated.” PBS NewsHour reported.
Being an episodic disease- now associated with climate change- the ability to track its next move will be an accomplishment in the fight against Cholera. By using remote satellite imaging this information can be tracked and stored. Scientists can then use it to identify where and when cholera will attack before it actually does.
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