The war between Russia and Ukraine continues to be a bloody reality for many as Ukrainian cities remain the battlefield of choice. Many parts of the country have incurred so much damage that they’re unrecognizable. And after months of violent conflict, some have been reduced to piles of rubble and ash.
As residents cling to their homes, the quality of life in these cities is greatly diminished. Water and sewer systems in cities like Mariupol are in a state of disrepair. And it’s leaving anyone fending for themselves at risk of contracting cholera.
Unsanitary water is one of the main ways people get diseases, cholera being just one of them. Cholera, an infectious disease that affects the small intestine, is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Anyone who comes down with cholera will quickly become dehydrated, causing a rapid loss of fluids and electrolytes, as well as diarrhea.
While you can still get cholera from raw or undercooked shellfish or fruits and vegetables, cholera infections primarily come from unsafe drinking water. In Ukraine, the lack of upkeep and destruction of sewage systems is causing the sewage and water to mix. And since a hallmark symptom of cholera is diarrhea, this can set off a chain reaction in the water supply, leading to further cases of this deadly disease.
Sadly, the war has made the relief effort challenging for the World Health Organization to get a handle on. The good news is that cholera is still treatable and has a fatality rate of under 1%. The catch is that the treatment needs to be administered fast enough, or the fatality rate becomes much higher. While cholera kits and vaccines are being distributed to cities like Mariupol, outbreaks will wait for no one, so they know they must act quickly.
Healthcare facilities in Ukraine are also targets of Russian aggression, further complicating matters. WHO has even verified that nearly two-thirds of all attacks on healthcare facilities this year happened in Ukraine. Coupled with the other two issues of unclean water and a relief effort stifled by the war, it seems Ukraine has all the potential for a cholera outbreak.
The destruction of healthcare facilities has made it a logistical nightmare for some Ukrainians to get the necessary aid. And for the health professionals native to Ukraine still working hard to keep their communities safe, they’re finding the battle to be more than they’ve bargained for. That’s not to say that attempts at culling the threat of cholera aren’t working. It’s just with all of the elements of the situation working against her, Ukraine could be under the threat of an enemy that does not announce its arrival.
Passport Health offers a variety of travelers’ diarrhea options and advice for any destination. Call 937-306-7541 or book online to schedule your appointment today.
Written for Passport Health by CJ Darnieder. CJ is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago. He is an avid lover of classical music and stand-up comedy and loves to write both in his spare time.