How Much Does Cholera Really Cost?

Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility

Cholera is an infectious disease associated with severe diarrhea and dehydration, caused by ingesting water contaminated with the bacteria Vibrio Cholerae. Cholera represents a serious threat to the public health in developing countries where clean water sources are less accessible. Current measures to prevent cholera in developing countries include improving sanitation and hygiene and increasing access to clean water.

New vaccines are also making a difference in preventing cholera in the developing world. One of these vaccines is Shanchol, an inactivated oral vaccine that costs between $1.14 an $3.70 USD for a double dose that would immunize one individual. Use of Shanchol to date has been limited as more data is gathered on efficacy and cost-effectiveness. This article discusses the cost incurred to the individual, the household, and the health care facility to treat each person infected with Cholera in Malawi, Africa.

The study interviewed 100 patients who had previously displayed Cholera-like symptoms to measure the financial impact of cholera. Researchers gathered data number of days absent from work and income lost. Health provider costs were determined by analyzing the cost of health care personnel, supplies and medicines.

The average economic loss to patients and households affected with cholera was found to be $65.60 USD. This cost increased with increasing number of days the patient spent in the health care facility and was primarily due to loss of income rather than treatment costs, which were provided free of charge. The cost to health care facilities per patient was estimated to be $59.70 USD per patient. The majority of this cost was due to the cost of personnel, who were pulled away from other jobs to deal with the cholera outbreak.

This study showed that the cost to the patient and the healthcare facility to treat cholera are much more expensive than the cost of preventative immunization. While the results of this cost-benefit analysis is clear, more research needs to be done to validate the effectiveness of the Shanchol vaccine before it is widely deployed in developing countries.

Cool news: MIT’s most recent list of “35 Innovators Under 35” featured Dr. Minmin Yen whose company, PhagePro is using bacteriophages to target Vibrio cholera.


Summary written by: Andrea Tomko

To read the full article, please click the following link:

Cost-of-illness of cholera to households and health facilities in rural Malawi

Patrick G. Ilboudo, Xiao Xian Huang, Bagrey Ngwira, Abel Mwanyungwe, Vittal Mogasale, Martin A. Mengel, Philippe Cavailler, Bradford D. Gessner, Jean-Bernard Le Gargasson

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