The only thing standing between us and a complete health disaster is clean water. Disease laden drinking water kills hundreds of thousands of people each year around the world. Cholera alone kills over 100,000 people a year, usually in places where the drinking water is contaminated with human waste. In the First World most reported cases of cholera are in people who have travelled internationally and have bought the disease back with them. Rehydration and antibiotics means that 99.9% of these people survive.
What many people don’t realise is that cholera can go un-noticed, causing a mild intestinal upset and for this reason many cases go unreported. Here this isn’t too much of a problem…our waste is whisked away and dealt with preventing the spread of the disease. Only 5-10% of people suffer from cholera seriously enough to kill them. This leaves millions of people who contract a mild form of the disease. These people spread the disease every time there faeces comes into contact with the drinking water supply. There is no way to know who will die from it and who won’t. Using contaminated drinking water is like playing Russian roulette with your health.
In any situation that prevents adequate water treatment we will be in the same position as countless millions of others who live with dirty water. Just one person with mild cholera could unknowingly spread the disease…which sickens more people and then their waste spreads the disease further. Before you know it you have an epidemic on your hands – one that would be unstoppable in a collapse situation.
Symptoms of cholera
- Profuse watery diarrhea
- Leg cramps
Rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours. Although cholera patients will be prescribed antibiotics the most important aspect of treatment is rehydration. Over the counter rehydration remedies are adequate for this purpose. They replace the salts and sugars lost from the body and should be given freely if cholera is suspected.
Although a person can become sickened and die within hours from cholera the average incubation time is 2-3 days, the maximum being 5 days from the time of infection.
Like all diseases cholera is an opportunist. Give it the conditions to flourish and it most likely will do so and like all diseases it takes just one individual to start an epidemic.
Sadly in a collapse situation we will all be susceptible to diseases spread by contaminated water and bad hygiene. In general there will be enough people who give no thought to their bodily waste that contamination of the water supply is highly likely at some point, particularly in cities and large towns.
Once the mains supply is no longer working people will seek out any other water supply they can find. Hand hygiene will be rudimentary for many who either don’t know, or don’t care what they could be spreading as they dip their bucket into the lake, pond, pool or stream.
Avoid any water source where any kind of ‘camp’ has sprung up as depending on where those staying there defecate the infection risk for many intestinal diseases will be much higher.
If you have no choice but use that water make sure you boil it before use. Boiling water kills many water born pathogens including cholera.
You can read more about cholera here.