Every epidemic which attacks a nation has a negative impact on the economy and the livelihood of people.
The recent cholera outbreak in some parts of Zambia, generally in Lusaka, has left a lot of consequences not only in the economy but also in some families.
Some trading areas were closed, there were movement restrictions, schools could not open on time and many other things were disrupted.
In order to contain and inform the community, there should be a way to communicate life saving massages.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) were used as a tool to effectively communicate to the population about the epidemic, its dangers and how to remain protected. Television and radio broadcasting, text messages on mobile phones, public address systems on mobile vehicles, emails, websites and many other things are used as tools to disseminate information.
This time the usage of social media is another fast platform where we could even get update from the authorities, such as Local Government Minister Vincent Mwale, who kept the nation updated on his social media platform about the Government efforts to fight the disease.
Health experts advised people to protect themselves by taking certain precautions such as to avoid handshakes, wash hands with soap, wash food with clean water, drink clean water, maintain good hygiene and many others.
If one can practice these, the chances of contacting cholera are reduced.
I recently, got amazed when I friend told me that you are avoiding to greet me with a handshake but you are receiving money which is coming from my hands.
Experts have said that money carries a lot of bacteria.
Many people have not paid attention to that.
The cash in your hands passed through different people who held it differently.
As we try our best to perform all the best hygiene ‘rituals’, how about considering the way we handle cash by performing cashless transaction to avoid the possible contamination with money which is carrying bacterial?
I do not know how long the bacterial survives in the open environment but experts say the cholera bacteria is spread by oral ingestion, meaning through the mouth.
If your hands are contaminated and you touch food which goes into your month, then the bacterial will now begin to work and you develop symptoms.
I am writing this article to discuss the use of ICTs focusing on electronic transactions.
Electronic transaction is where you will basically perform the buying and selling of goods and service without handling cash in your hands.
Since I am not a health expert, I will refrain from engaging in discussing my thoughts but rather refer and borrow what renowned health authorities have shared.
Of course we cannot throw away some basic hygiene we learn from homes, schools and just some best common health practices.
My discussion will aim at raising an awareness using the possible means to reduce cross contamination by performing electric transactions (paying for goods and services using swiping cards, mobile money, Internet transactions, and many more) where possible.
What is cholera?
Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.
An estimated 3-5 million cases and over 100,000 deaths occur each year around the world.
The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe.
Approximately one in 10 (5-10 per cent) infected persons will have severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps.
In these people, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock.
Without treatment, death can occur within hours, (World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Where is cholera found?
The cholera bacterium is usually found in water or food sources that have been contaminated by feces (poop) from a person infected with cholera.
Cholera is most likely to be found and spread in places with inadequate water treatment, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene.
How does a person get cholera?
A person can get cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the cholera bacterium.
In an epidemic, the source of the contamination is usually the feces of an infected person that contaminates water and/or food.
The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water. The disease is not likely to spread directly from one person to another; therefore, casual contact with an infected person is not a risk for becoming ill.
What are the symptoms of cholera?
Cholera infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe. Approximately one in 10 (5-10 per cent) of infected persons will have severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps.
In these people, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock.
Without treatment, death can occur within hours.
Who is most likely to get cholera?
Individuals living in places with inadequate water treatment, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene are at a greater risk for cholera.
Experts through the media have shared and sensitized the public various way how one can contract Cholera.
Many people are performing transactions using cash which also risky.
We can ask questions: how did Shoprite, Pick’nPay, Hungry Lion, Mika Hotel, and many other places get contaminated?
These places are known to be of high quality hygiene but one thing that we possibly may forget is that the staff or rather cashiers where handling money from customers and vice versa. Contaminated hands will pass the bacteria to anything that passes through those hands, until, unfortunately, it reaches the mouth if precautions are not been taken.
How can I avoid getting cholera?
The risk for cholera is very low for people not visiting areas with an epidemic.
When simple precautions are observed, contracting the disease is unlikely.
All people (visitors or residents) in areas where cholera is occurring or has occurred should observe the recommendations from health experts.
People need to take the vaccine as another way of prevention.
As I stated in the introduction, some ICTs can be used as tools to avoid the spread of cholera especially when handling cash money.
I will also mention another part where ICTs can be used to avoid the spread through people gathering.
The Government ask people to avoid and or stop certain public gatherings.
I must say that were certain information needs to be communication to members of a certain group, ICTs can be used such WhatsApp, emails, instant messing, website, bulk SMS, television and many others.
Through such media, intended people are able to receive the message and are able to provide feedback without risking their lives for any possible spreading of the disease.
One of the human resource experts whom I was sharing with the idea about this subject said that his company is reducing group meetings instead by using emails and teleconference meetings.
Before we get to the conclusion, electric transactions should be considered very much, especially to those who deal trading.
Swiping cards, mobile money, Internet and many others can be used.
At this time where some worshipers have been stopped from holding their gatherings, they can still send their tithes and offering through mobile money, Internet banking and other electronic means.
What is the Government doing to combat cholera?
The Ministry of Health and other partners are working to enhance surveillance for cholera.
They are also investigating reported cholera outbreaks, and have designed and implemented preventive measures across the nation.
The Minister of Health announced that there is a reduction of new cholera cases.
There are many ways of through which people are contracting cholera, much of what has been said is about contaminated hands which we use to handle food as we feed ourselves.
We all touch money in most of our daily activities and remain at a very high risk just like someone drinking contaminated water or food.
Taking preventive measure is very important to our health.
Therefore, I encourage the reader to consider reduce handling cash where possible by using electronic means.
Those who would want to share important message to for various groupings should try to use electronic means too.
You can change the approach, but you will still maintain the purpose.
Let us stop the spread of chorela by keeping good hygiene: (Reference: World Health Organisation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
The author is an ICT consultant, CFIP, PDES, BSc IT, DIT, ADip.PM, ITIL. For comments, suggestion, questions email firstname.lastname@example.org, WhatsApp +260977689574, +260955689574, Like the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ictmatterswithkingstonalimwila.