Sari cloth helps fight cholera

A nationally recognized health professional paid Florida A&M University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals a visit to discuss a disease that claimed thousands of lives in third world countries.

Rita R. Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and current professor at the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, presented the topic titled Climate, Oceans, and Infectious Diseases: The Saga of Cholera.   

Cholera is an acute illness caused by the bacterium vibrio cholerae. According to Colwell, the bacteria spreads through food or drink water contaminated with the disease.

Colwell’s research on cholera and the different prevention methods have taken her all over the world.

She has found simple and inexpensive ways to help women of third world countries prevent the spread of the disease by using sari cloth, a basic material used for clothing, to filter the water.

Some students said they learned important information that everyone should know about news happening internationally. Grant said he was amazed by the type of research Colwell has done in regards to a disease that affects the world.

“The presentation was highly informative about communicable diseases not only in the United States but on a Global Level,” said Karl Grant a FAMU graduate of Environmental Science from Tallahassee.

Colwell’s presentation covered various topics including the effects of increased international air travel, health effects of climate change, and bird malaria in Hawaii, along with her extensive research on cholera.                                   

According to the Center for Bioinformatics & Computational Biology’s Web site Colwell’s experience and research have earned her recognition from former President George Bush, and she received the National Medal of Science in 2006, along with more than 50 honorary degrees and awards from various institutions.                                           

Betty Brew, a Ph. D student at the Environmental Science Institute from Ghana, said Colwell presentation was, “very interesting and eye-opening.”                        

Brew said cholera affects many people in her country Ghana. She learned that using carbonated water instead of tap water is much safer for the people of her country.                Colwell’s presentation also appealed to students in many different studies.            

Jidraph Njuguna, 20, junior mathematics students from Kenya felt that Colwell’s lecture did not overwhelm him with too extreme scientific jargon.                             “

It was simple but informative,” Njuguna said. Njuguna said he appreciated her extensive work from a mathematician’s viewpoint. “I was intrigued about the amount of data, and the computational analysis.”