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Caution:WHO Deploys Rapid Cholera Tests Globally

The World Health Organization (WHO) has unveiled an ambitious plan to combat the escalating global cholera threat. By deploying rapid diagnostic tests, WHO aims to enhance outbreak detection and response worldwide.

Key Highlights:

  • Malawi Receives First Shipment: Malawi has received the inaugural shipment of these diagnostic tests, marking the program’s commencement.
  • Distribution to High-Risk Countries: Over 1.2 million tests will be distributed to 14 high-risk countries in the coming months. Nations severely impacted by cholera outbreaks—such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Syria, and Zambia—will receive these vital testing kits.
  • Collaborative Effort: The initiative is a joint endeavor, with funding and coordination managed by the Gavi Vaccine Alliance and procurement overseen by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  • Strengthening Surveillance and Response: The program’s primary goal is to accelerate cholera outbreak detection and response. By bolstering routine surveillance and testing capabilities, countries can swiftly identify and address outbreaks.
  • Cholera’s Global Impact: Cholera, caused by a bacterium transmitted through contaminated food or water, leads to severe diarrhea and vomiting. It poses a significant risk, especially to young children.
  • Alarming Statitics: In 2022, global cholera cases reported to the WHO reached 473,000, doubling from the previous year. Preliminary data suggests that over 700,000 cases were reported the following year.
  • Vaccine Demand and Shortage: The surge in outbreaks has triggered heightened vaccine demand from affected countries. Despite an eighteen-fold increase in the global supply of oral cholera vaccines between 2013 and 2023, a global shortage persists.
  • Urgent Measures Needed: WHO has urgently called for measures to address this vaccine shortage, given the unprecedented strain on the global stockpile. As a result, preventive vaccination campaigns have been delayed to prioritize emergency responses.
  • Swift Identification of Hotspots: Repeated outbreaks in countries with prior vaccination drives underscore the need for accurate identification of areas with ongoing or emerging transmission. Surveillance diagnostics play a crucial role in pinpointing specific hotspots, enabling strategic allocation of cholera vaccines where they can save lives.

Leila Pakkala, the head of UNICEF’s supply division, emphasizes the critical role of surveillance diagnostics in this endeavor. By identifying specific hotspots, partners can allocate vaccines strategically, maximizing their impact.

The WHO’s global deployment of rapid diagnostic tests represents a vital step in the fight against cholera, safeguarding communities and saving lives.