WHO announces global resurgence of cholera cases in 2024

. Issues alert on falsified medicines used for diabetes treatment, weight loss

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a spike in cholera in several regions of the world, with almost 195,000 cases and over 1,900 deaths reported in 24 countries since the start of this year. 

The agency’s Eastern Mediterranean Region reported the highest number of cases, followed by the African Region, the Region of the Americas, the Southeast Asia Region, and the European Region.

There were no reported cases in the Western Pacific Region, it said in a bulletin issued on Wednesday.

Vaccines and resurgence

The UN health agency said it exhausted its global stockpile of Oral Cholera Vaccines (OCV) by March but was able to exceed “the emergency target of five million doses in early June for the first time in 2024.”

Yet, the supply of the vaccine does not equate to its demand. 

WHO reported that since January last year, 16 countries requested 92 million doses of OCV – almost double the 49 million produced during that time.

WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners are working together to use resources to find long-term solutions for cholera.

Sleeping sickness eliminated in Chad

On the positive side of health news, WHO announced on Thursday that Chad successfully eradicated “sleeping sickness” as a public health problem.

The agency applauded the Government and people of Chad for eradicating the gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis, (also known as sleeping sickness).

“I congratulate the government and the people of Chad for this achievement. It is great to see Chad join the growing group of countries that have eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease (NTD),” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Target within reach

In eliminating the disease, Chad joining some 50 others globally that have succeeded in this endeavour.  

“The 100-country target is nearer and within reach,” Tedros added, referring to the target set out in the road map for address neglected tropical diseases by 2030.

Sleeping sickness can cause flu-like symptoms initially but eventually causing behaviour change, confusion, sleep cycle disturbances or even coma, often leading to death.

Improved access to early diagnosis and treatment, as well as surveillance and response has proven that countries can control and eventually eliminate transmission.

…since January last year, 16 countries requested 92 million doses of OCV – almost double the 49 million produced during that time.

Falsified semaglutides

WHO on Thursday also issued a medical product alert on the release of three batches of falsified semaglutides – the type of medicines primarily used to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity in some countries.

The spurious semaglutides – of a specific brand Ozempic – were found in Brazil, the United Kingdom in October 2023, and the United States in December 2023, and were delivered through a regular supply chain.

The WHO’s official notice follows reports of “falsified semaglutide products” across all geographical regions from its Global Surveillance and Monitoring System (GSMS) since 2022.

Dr. Yukiko Nakatani, WHO Assistant Director-General for Essential Medicines and Health Products called on all stakeholders to “stop any usage of suspicious medicines and report to relevant authorities.”  


Ozempic’s actual manufacturer confirmed with WHO that the semaglutides were falsified based on batch and serial numbers.

Semaglutides are supposed to help people reduce their blood sugar and appetite levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease. WHO says reports of falsified products increased as demand for the product grew greater.

Consuming falsified or fake products can have harmful and life-threatening effects on one’s body.

Semaglutides are not recommended by WHO for diabetes treatment due to the product’s expensive cost.

Avoid fake products

Dr. Nakatani said the UN health agency advised healthcare professionals, regulatory authorities and the public to “be aware of these falsified batches of medicines.”

It added that healthcare professionals “should report any incident of adverse effects, lack of effectiveness and suspected falsification to the National Regulatory Authorities/National Pharmacovigilance Centre.”

WHO also advised individuals who may have fake products not to use them and to seek medical assistance if they have used them and experienced side effects.

Avoid unfamiliar sources

To avoid any such scenario, WHO urged people to purchase prescribed products from licensed physicians rather than online or from unfamiliar sources.

WHO added that people should use the products as prescribed and should check for lot and serial numbers, examine the product itself and assess the label quality to ensure the product being used isn’t falsified. (UN News)

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