Epidemiology of Cholera Outbreaks and Socio-Economic Characteristics of the Communities in the Fishing Villages of Uganda: 2011-2015

Publication Date
March 2017

Bwire G, Munier A, Ouedraogo I, Heyerdahl L, Komakech H, Kagirita A, Wood R, Mhlanga R, Njanpop-Lafourcade B, Malimbo M, Makumbi I, Wandawa J, Gessner BD, Orach CG, Mengel MA

Journal Reference
PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2017 Mar 13;11(3):e0005407. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0005407. eCollection 2017.



The communities in fishing villages in the Great Lakes Region of Africa and particularly in Uganda experience recurrent cholera outbreaks that lead to considerable mortality and morbidity. We evaluated cholera epidemiology and population characteristics in the fishing villages of Uganda to better target prevention and control interventions of cholera and contribute to its elimination from those communities.


We conducted a prospective study between 2011-15 in fishing villages in Uganda. We collected, reviewed and documented epidemiological and socioeconomic data for 10 cholera outbreaks that occurred in fishingcommunities located along the African Great Lakes and River Nile in Uganda. These outbreaks caused 1,827 suspected cholera cases and 43 deaths, with a Case-Fatality Ratio (CFR) of 2.4%. Though the communities in the fishing villages make up only 5-10% of the Ugandan population, they bear the biggest burden of cholera contributing 58% and 55% of all reported cases and deaths in Uganda during the study period. The CFR was significantly higher among males than females (3.2% vs. 1.3%, p = 0.02). The outbreaks were seasonal with most cases occurring during the months of April-May. Male children under age of 5 years, and 5-9 years had increased risk. Cholera was endemic in some villages with well-defined "hotspots". Practices predisposing communities to cholera outbreaks included: the use of contaminated lake water, poor sanitation and hygiene. Additional factors were: ignorance, illiteracy, and poverty.


Cholera outbreaks were a major cause of morbidity and mortality among the fishing communities in Uganda. In addition to improvements in water, sanitation, and hygiene, oral cholera vaccines could play an important role in the prevention and control of these outbreaks, particularly when targeted to high-risk areas and populations. Promotion and facilitation of access to social services including education and reduction in poverty should contribute to cholera prevention, control and elimination in these communities.