We describe the clinical course and outcome of Rwandan refugees with cholera-like illness (n = 567) and clinical dysentery (n = 1,062) treated at the Israeli Army field hospital in the disaster region of Goma, Zaire, during the summer of 1994. Vigorous fluid administration was the primary therapy, complemented with antibiotics for patients with presumed Shigella infection. Recovery rates were 94% and 96% for patients with cholera and dysentery, respectively. Mortality was substantially affected by comorbid conditions such as pneumonia and meningitis, which occurred in one-quarter of these patients. Infective, metabolic, and surgical complications (including three cases of intussusception) may have contributed to the deaths. The outcome of patients during diarrheal epidemics of cholera or bacillary dysentery may be favorable, even in disaster settings, if patients are evacuated promptly to medical facilities and appropriate therapy is instituted. We close with general observations on procedures to be followed in future epidemics of diarrheal diseases.
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