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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
Cholera vaccine is launched in UK
Vibrium cholerae
Cholera-causing bacteria
UK travellers will be able to obtain a cholera vaccine for the first time in a decade from Thursday.

The Dukoral vaccine, taken as a raspberry-flavoured drink, will be available from GPs and travel clinics.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection, spread by contaminated food and drink.

Experts said the vaccine will help protect against traveller's diarrhoea - a bigger threat to holiday-makers than cholera.

This vaccine has been shown to be almost as effective against traveller's diarrhoea, which many people do get
Dr Tom Blanchard, Liverpool School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Cholera does kill tens of thousands of people worldwide - but more than 90% of cases are of mild or moderate severity.

The majority of those affected are people living in areas where cholera is endemic. Most other infections occur when areas are affected by natural disasters.

According to the Health Protection Agency there were 126 cases of cholera among British travellers between 1990 and 2001

'Remain vigilant'

The Dukoral vaccine, made by pharmaceutical company Chiron Vaccines, will offer protection to UK travellers who could potentially be exposed to cholera.

Trials in Bangladesh and Peru showed the vaccine gave an overall protection of 85% for the first six months and provided protective efficacy for around two years.

But holiday-makers are still advised to wash their hands before touching food, and to follow the 'if you can't boil it, cook it or peel it, forget it' food rule.

Dr Jane Zuckerman, of the Royal Free Travel Health Centre WHO Collaborating Centre for Travel Medicine, said: "This new vaccine is great news for UK travellers because it provides a solution to cholera that has been badly needed for many years.

"Cholera is an underestimated disease and it should not be neglected because of its potential severity.

"Travellers should still remain vigilant - especially since high risk destinations are becoming increasingly popular with tourists - but this new vaccine provides a tremendous level of protection and comfort."

The vaccine is also effective against a type of the ETEC toxin (entero toxigenic E.coli), which causes some cases of "traveller's diarrhoea".

Dr Tom Blanchard, a senior lecturer in tropical medicine at the Liverpool School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told BBC News Online the vaccine had been shown to be effective, but UK travellers were at low risk of becoming infected with cholera.

He added: "In my whole career, I have seen one case of cholera in the UK."

But he said the vaccine could benefit groups such as medical staff going to disaster areas or people going abroad for charity or VSO (voluntary service overseas) work.

Dr Blanchard added: "This vaccine has been shown to be effective againstone cause of traveller's diarrhoea, which many people do get."

Adults, and children over the age of six, would take two 150ml doses of the vaccine before they travel. A 150ml booster would be needed after two years.




SEE ALSO:
Cholera's genetic secrets revealed
02 Aug 00  |  Science/Nature
Medical notes: Cholera
08 May 03  |  Medical notes


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