WHO issues global alert following Sierra Leone cholera outbreak

The World Health Organization issued a Global Alert and Response on Wednesday related to the cholera epidemic in Sierra Leone that has caused 11,653 cases of the bacterial disease and 216 deaths this year.

While the WHO did not recommend imposing any trade or travel restrictions on the country, it did note that the rate of new cases jumped significantly since the start of August. Two new districts in the country are registering new cases and 5,706 cases have been recorded since the start of the month. The WHO recommends scaling and speeding up the response to the outbreak.

Sierra Leone's president declared the epidemic a humanitarian crisis, which led to a multi-sector response being adopted by the country's Ministry of Health and Sanitation. Additionally, the country established a national emergency task force with sub-committees that deal with social mobilization, logistics, water and sanitation, case management, and surveillance. The country office for the WHO in Sierra Leone is also leading a weekly meeting of stakeholders and partners to improve strategy and harmonization of support.

UNICEF, Médecins sans Frontières and other partners are teaming with the WHO and the MOHS to implement community education, social mobilization, water and sanitation control measures, case management, surveillance, and epidemiological investigation. The WHO also deployed three cholera experts and two epidemiologists from Zimbabwe to improve coordination and infection control.