Cholera outbreak in districts around Lake Chilwa, Malawi: Lessons learned
Cholera is endemic in Malawi with seasonal outbreaks during the wet season. People living around Lake Chilwa rely on the lake for their water supply. From May 2009 to May 2010, a cholera outbreak occurred in fishing communities around Lake Chilwa. This paper describes the outbreak response and lessons learned for prevention and management of future outbreaks.
Starting in January 2010, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) helped District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) to distribute educational materials, water disinfectant and hygiene supplies, and oral rehydration solution (ORS) in fishing communities. MSF also supported case management by mentoring health workers and providing equipment and supplies.
A total of 1,171 cholera cases and 21 deaths were reported in the districts around the lake, with cases also being reported on the Mozambican side of the lake. The attack rate was highest among people living on or around the lake, particularly among fishermen. Samples of lake water had high turbidity conducive to the propagation of Vibrio cholerae.
A number of practical measures could be taken to prevent future outbreaks and to manage outbreaks more effectively. These measures should address surveillance, environmental management, outbreak preparedness, and case management.