How not to give a health warning

This is an email that I received from the American embassy about the still growing cholera outbreak. Keep in mind that today is December 10 and this outbreak has been growing since October. Oh and lest I forget, over 500 people have been diagnosed and seven people have died. I guess compared to Uganda, Mozambique is doing pretty well.

Embassy of the United States of America

Maputo, Mozambique

Consular Section

10 December 2007

The Mozambique Ministry of Health and local media outlets have reported
an increase in cholera cases over the past few weeks. Health officials
have reported cases in Quelimane, Beira, Cabo Delgado, Maputo Province
and Maputo City. While Maputo and many areas of Mozambique encounter
cholera cases annually, the Embassy reminds all American citizens of the
importance of food and water preparation to prevent cholera and other
water-borne illnesses.

Information on cholera is available from the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) website at
htm> . Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such
as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be
obtained from the CDC’s hotline for international travelers at
1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s website at
information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the
World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at
<BLOCKED::BLOCKED::; . Further health information

for travelers is available at


Now I’m going to assume that everyone that received this email is fairly intelligent and cognizant of health risks. However, how many people have dealt with/encountered cholera? Why did it take so long for the embassy to send out the warning? After all, it is just a brief email with links. Furthermore, would it have been that much trouble to reproduce the essence of the CDC recommendations in the email rather than relying on people to click on links? I doubt that many people took the time to click through. It makes it difficult to trust that the government is up to the task of handling public health risks.


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