HEALTH minister Sylvia Masebo has declared the end of the cholera outbreak in Mwansabombwe district of Luapula Province as well as in Chipangali, Lusangazi and Vubwi districts of Eastern Province.

Meanwhile, Masebo has announced that all provinces across the country have attained over 70 percent of full Covid-19 vaccination.

Zambia declared a cholera outbreak on January 21, 2023, which started in Vubwi district and affected seven other districts including Chipata, Chipangali and Lusangazi districts in Eastern Province; Mwansabombwe and Nchelenge districts in Luapula Province; and Nsama and Mpulungu districts in Northern Province.

Addressing the media in Lusaka, Thursday, Masebo said the country had recorded a cumulative total of eight deaths and 319 cholera cases since the outbreak in January this year.

“Today, April 6, 2023, the Ministry of Health declares the end of the cholera outbreak in Mwansabombwe district of Luapula Province as well as in Chipangali, Lusangazi and Vubwi districts of Eastern Province. To date, the country has recorded a cumulative 319 cases and eight deaths. Government, through the Ministry of Health and the Zambia National Public Health Institute, introduced a robust and effective response to quickly contain the cholera outbreak using a multi-sectoral approach. Through these efforts, we have managed to effectively control the cholera outbreak in four of the eight affected districts. Vubwi, Mwansabombwe, Lusangazi and Chipangali Districts have not recorded any new cases of cholera for more than 15 days. The declaration of an end to the outbreak in the four districts is in line with our national cholera control guidelines and the Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC) guidelines,” she said.

Masebo disclosed that Chipata district was showing positive signs of control as it had not recorded any new cases in seven days.

“I am pleased to report that Chipata district is also showing positive signs of control having gone seven days of zero reporting of new cases. We remain hopeful that the situation in Nchelenge and Nsama district which continue to report cases will soon resolve especially with the increased multi-sectoral interventions,” she said.

Masebo, however, announced that Mpulungu was the latest district to record cholera cases.

“Mpulungu is the latest district to record confirmed cholera cases. This is among two patients from the same household. They had presented with severe diarrhea, vomiting and body weakness. The patients are from Kafukula village under Kaziya rural health Centre catchment area. These two had a history of travel to Nsama district where there is an active outbreak. They were referred to Mpulungu urban clinic isolation ward, treated and have since been discharged. No cholera related fatality has been recorded in the District. Contact tracing was conducted and no other cases have been recorded in the District,” she said.

“Indeed, it is pleasing to note that currently, there is no evidence of active community transmission established with five days of zero reporting. However, risk factors such as flash floods experienced in the affected areas, limited sanitation facilities and poor hygiene practices remain a threat to the public health security of the community. You may be aware that an oral cholera vaccination campaign was last conducted in 2019 and so the immunity may have waned off leaving the population vulnerable. Considering the increased risk of an upsurge in cholera cases, we continue to be on high alert and are intensifying preventive measures”.

Masebo commended all players involved in the elimination of cholera for their commitment and further emphasised the need for continued adherence to prevention measures.

“I wish to emphasise the need for adherence to measures to prevent cholera such as maintaining high levels of environmental and personal hygiene and use of clean and safe water to clean household utensils for cooking and eating among others. This emphasis is not only for the affected communities but to everyone considering the continued risk posed by the social and environmental factors across the country and continued outbreaks in neighbouring countries,” she said.

“Allow me to also use this platform to thank all participants in the fight against cholera and other diseases of public health importance for the dedication that has led to the significant achievement of ending this cholera outbreak timely. The various Government line ministries and or departments, traditional and religious leaders, civil society, the dedicated press and ever-supportive cooperating partners are acknowledged and commended for their support and quick action to response. We all together bring pride to President Hakainde Hichilema who is the Global Champion for Global Cholera Elimination”.

Meanwhile, Masebo announced that all provinces across the country had attained over 70 percent of full Covid-19 vaccination.

“I wish to share with you some other good news related to our continued fight against COVID-19. Lusaka Province has finally hit the 71 per cent COVID-19 vaccination coverage mark. It has been a tough journey for Lusaka District. I am pleased to announce that all provinces have now attained over 70 per cent full vaccination coverage of the eligible population with the National average at 83.6 per cent. The recent targeted campaign across 18 districts in four provinces conducted in the last 12 days helped push all districts beyond 70 per cent with about 400,000 people vaccinated within this campaign. Currently 4.2 million eligible people have received at least one dose, and nine million fully vaccinated. Over one million have received their booster dose. I encourage you who have yet to get the second or booster dose to do so,” said Masebo.

And speaking at the same briefing, MoH director for infectious diseases Professor Lloyd Mulenga disclosed that President Hichilema had been engaging relevant stakeholders on the possibility of Zambia locally producing cholera vaccines.

“There is a global shortage of the cholera vaccines because of the demand which is there and it has not been met by the manufacturing industry. As a result, we still continue lobbying for vaccines to be available and right now, we cannot give the date when we are going to meet the demands for cholera vaccines. The Republican President has engaged a lot of people around the globe to enhance the production of cholera vaccines and I am sure soon, Zambia will be one of the countries which will try and produce the cholera vaccines locally. What is important right now is the prevention because we know that cholera is a preventable disease even in the absence of the vaccine,” said Prof Mulenga.