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PLoS One. 2011; 6(5): e19005.
Published online May 4, 2011. doi:  10.1371/journal.pone.0019005
PMCID: PMC3087718

Cholera Epidemic in Guinea-Bissau (2008): The Importance of “Place”

Frank Tanser, Editor



As resources are limited when responding to cholera outbreaks, knowledge about where to orient interventions is crucial. We describe the cholera epidemic affecting Guinea-Bissau in 2008 focusing on the geographical spread in order to guide prevention and control activities.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We conducted two studies: 1) a descriptive analysis of the cholera epidemic in Guinea-Bissau focusing on its geographical spread (country level and within the capital); and 2) a cross-sectional study to measure the prevalence of houses with at least one cholera case in the most affected neighbourhood of the capital (Bairro Bandim) to detect clustering of households with cases (cluster analysis). All cholera cases attending the cholera treatment centres in Guinea-Bissau who fulfilled a modified World Health Organization clinical case definition during the epidemic were included in the descriptive study. For the cluster analysis, a sample of houses was selected from a satellite photo (Google Earth™); 140 houses (and the four closest houses) were assessed from the 2,202 identified structures. We applied K-functions and Kernel smoothing to detect clustering. We confirmed the clustering using Kulldorff's spatial scan statistic. A total of 14,222 cases and 225 deaths were reported in the country (AR = 0.94%, CFR = 1.64%). The more affected regions were Biombo, Bijagos and Bissau (the capital). Bairro Bandim was the most affected neighborhood of the capital (AR = 4.0). We found at least one case in 22.7% of the houses (95%CI: 19.5–26.2) in this neighborhood. The cluster analysis identified two areas within Bairro Bandim at highest risk: a market and an intersection where runoff accumulates waste (p<0.001).


Our analysis allowed for the identification of the most affected regions in Guinea-Bissau during the 2008 cholera outbreak, and the most affected areas within the capital. This information was essential for making decisions on where to reinforce treatment and to guide control and prevention activities.

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