One hundred and seventy one years ago John Snow realised that the cholera outbreak in Broad Street, London, was being spread by water from the local water pump. Further proof of his theory came from the fact that none of the monks in the adjacent monastery contracted cholera, for they drank only beer, which they brewed themselves. As a result of the fermentation of the contaminated water the beer was safer to drink than the dirty water from the Broad Street pump.
This fascinating information did not make its way into the cholera prevention training held this week by staff of Vajra Varahi Healthcare – althought it may well be the case that rakshi – rice spirit – and rice beer are a healthier option than unboiled or untreated water in the Kathmandu valley right now!
Instead, Carina, Vajra Varahi Healthcare Director, and her team of interpreters and staff entertained and enlightened patients, young monks and CGLF staff with information about what cholera is, how it is spread, how to avoid and how to treat it.
As part of this pilot training event everyone was shown how to sterilise water using purification tablets or even household bleach, and the team stressed the utmost importance of washing hands, utensils and vegetables. Participants learnt how to make home-made ORS (oral rehydration solution), and when to seek medical help in the case of diarrhoea and vomiting.
Patients attending were given a kit of bucket, dettol soap, locally available purifcation fluid, and a special container for keeping sterilised water, purchased with the generous help of Spanish donors.
“This was our first training”, said Carina. “It was pretty successful, but we have lots of ideas how to make it more interactive and fun the next time around. We will train everyone living and working on the monastery site – which is especially important as they share toilets, cooking facilities and water supplies with the monks. Then we will take the information further out into the community. It is vital everyone knows how easy it is to prevent the spread of the disease – and how important it is to treat diarrhoea straight away by making sure the sick person drinks plenty of fluids”.
This is indeed crucial information. In parts of Nepal people have thought that the best treatment for diarrhoea and vomiting is to avoid all drinks until the illness stops. Which it would do, swiftly, as dehydration leads to collapse – and often death.
Drinking replaces lost fluids and gives the body the chance to recover. Cholera is unpleasant – but need not be fatal.
Thank you Carina and the Vajra Varahi Healthcare team for sharing this life-saving information. We wish you every success with all your future sessions!