Epidemiology of Cholera in Bangladesh: Findings From Nationwide Hospital-based Surveillance, 2014-2018

Khan AI, Rashid MM, Islam MT, Afrad MH, Salimuzzaman M, Hegde ST, Zion MMI, Khan ZH, Shirin T, Habib ZH, Khan IA, Begum YA, Azman AS, Rahman M, Clemens JD, Flora MS, Qadri F

Background: Despite advances in prevention, detection, and treatment, cholera remains a major public health problem in Bangladesh and little is known about cholera outside of limited historical sentinel surveillance sites. In Bangladesh, a comprehensive national cholera control plan is essential, although national data are needed to better understand the magnitude and geographic distribution of cholera.

Methods: We conducted systematic hospital-based cholera surveillance among diarrhea patients in 22 sites throughout Bangladesh from 2014 to 2018. Stool specimens were collected and tested for Vibrio cholerae by microbiological culture. Participants' socioeconomic status and clinical, sanitation, and food history were recorded. We used generalized estimating equations to identify the factors associated with cholera among diarrhea patients.

Results: Among 26 221 diarrhea patients enrolled, 6.2% (n = 1604) cases were V. cholerae O1. The proportion of diarrhea patients positive for cholera in children <5 years was 2.1% and in patients ≥5 years was 9.5%. The proportion of cholera in Dhaka and Chittagong Division was consistently high. We observed biannual seasonal peaks (pre- and postmonsoon) for cholera across the country, with higher cholera positivity during the postmonsoon in western regions and during the pre-monsoon season in eastern regions. Cholera risk increased with age, occupation, and recent history of diarrhea among household members.

Conclusions: Cholera occurs throughout a large part of Bangladesh. Cholera-prone areas should be prioritized to control the disease by implementation of targeted interventions. These findings can help strengthen the cholera-control program and serve as the basis for future studies for tracking the impact of cholera-control interventions in Bangladesh.

Keywords: Bangladesh; cholera; diarrhea; surveillance.