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Cloth Filters Fight Cholera

I'm Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

A few years ago, researchers discovered a simple answer to a big problem. They found that the bacteria that causes cholera can be removed from drinking water with simple cloth filters. Pouring water from rivers or lakes through several thicknesses of cloth can trap tiny organisms like the cholera bacteria.

A three-year study took place in Bangladesh. American and Bangladeshi scientists went to sixty-five small villages in a country where cholera is a major health problem. They tested the use of saris as cloth filters. A sari is the traditional clothing worn by most women in Bangladesh.

People in one group of villages used cloth from old saris, folded eight times, as a filter for their drinking water. People in another group of villages used modern nylon filters for their water. People in the other villages continued to gather water in traditional ways, without using filters. About forty-four thousand people were studied in each of the three groups of villages.

Rita Colwell from the University of Maryland at College Park helped lead the study. She said the people in the villages using filters from old saris had the lowest number of cases of cholera. The researchers also found that almost ninety-nine percent of cholera bacteria could be filtered out with the sari cloth. Rita Colwell said cloth from old saris worked best because it has been washed repeatedly. She said the space between the threads of the material narrows when the cloth is washed, so it traps smaller particles.

Cholera is an intestinal infection that can develop in the body in less than five days. It can quickly lead to severe loss of fluids through diarrhea and vomiting. Cholera can cause death if treatment is not given quickly. Children under age five are most at risk.

People get the disease by drinking water or eating food that contains the bacteria. The disease is most often found in areas where there is unclean water and poor systems for treating human waste.

The most recent yearly report on cholera on the Web site of the World Health Organization is for two thousand two. That year, fifty-two countries reported a total of one hundred forty-two thousand cases. These infections resulted in more than four thousand five hundred deaths.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. I'm Gwen Outen.