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Middle-schooler collects water, combats cholera

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

McDonough resident Mariah Manning is determined to collect at least 20,000 bottles of water, to aid efforts to combat the cholera epidemic in Haiti. The 14-year-old is calling her campaign "Bottle Up Cholera."

Manning said she already has collected 1,048 unopened bottles of water in just a few weeks, since the first anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, Jan. 12, 2010.

"I'm just doing it to help stop the disease over there," said Manning, who was spurred to action after hearing about the cholera epidemic now plaguing the island nation.

Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that cholera had not been documented in Haiti for decades, up until Oct. 21, 2010, when the cholera outbreak was confirmed in Haiti.

CDC reports explain that cholera outbreaks occur under two conditions. "There must be significant breaches in the water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure used by groups of people, permitting large-scale exposure to food, or water contaminated with Vibrio cholerae organisms," according to the CDC, "and cholera must be present in the population."

CDC officials acknowledge that the first line of treatment for cholera is rehydration. They noted the prevention and control of cholera require surveillance, heightened measures to ensure the safety of drinking water and food, and appropriate facilities and practices for disposal of feces and for hand-washing.

"We're talking about that in school," said Manning, an eighth-grader at Henry County Middle School.

Manning said she plans to collect the bottles until she reaches her goal of 20,000 bottles of water. Her motivations include her family. She said her father, Jude Charles, is from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She said she still has family members who live in Haiti.

"I feel bad for the people over there," she said. "I give people flyers that tell them about what the disease does to people, and how it's affecting their lives."

Manning said she began, a few weeks ago, collecting bottles of water from members of her church, Community Bible Church in Stockbridge. She recently moved the effort to her school, where there are collection bins on each hallway.

Manning said she is not sure how long it will take to collect the bottles. Her grandmother, Jeanette Monteleone of McDonough, said she was impressed by her granddaughter's lofty endeavor.

"I'm proud of her for doing this," said Monteleone.

To learn more about Manning's "Bottle Up Cholera" efforts, e-mail her at bottleupcholera@yahoo.com. Residents may also call Community Bible Church at (770) 914-0808, or make donations at the church, located at 2001 Jodeco Road in Stockbridge.