Over 250 die of cholera in Haiti

Monday, October 25, 2010

Port-au-PRINCE/GENEVA - At least 253 people have died of cholera in Haiti, UN officials said Monday, amid signs that the spread of the water-borne disease was tapering off.

Haitian health authorities have reported around 3,000 cases, confined to the Artibonite region, north of the capital Port-au-Prince.

Three cholera deaths and five infections were reported in Port-au-Prince over the weekend. In all cases, those infected are believed to have travelled to the city for treatment.

The detection of cholera in the capital has raised fears of cholera spreading to nearby overcrowded refugee camps housing around one million people since the earthquake in January.

“You’ve got people living cheek by jowl in conditions not as hygienic as anyone would want at best of times,” said Melanie Brooks, a spokeswoman for the aid agency CARE International.

“People are extremely susceptible to disease and if this spreads to Port-au-Prince there is a large fear this can spread quickly,” Brooks added.

Other aid agencies operating in Haiti since the earthquake in which more than 220,000 people died, have been suppling water purification tablets and soap in a bid to prevent the disease from spreading.

“Something as simple as soap can save lives,” Brooks said.

But witnesses said people in affected areas were suffering shortages of clean water and some were on the streets begging for uncontaminated fluids to drink.

According to the head of Haiti’s health department, Gabriel Thimote, although the cholera death toll was still rising, there was a decline in the rate of infection.

World Health Organization (UN) officials Monday said more of the infected people were seeking medical help.

“Currently there are 12 cholera treatment centres being built to support isolation and treatment of cases,” the WHO said in a statement Sunday.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders, MSF) and other aid organisations have expanded their facilities to deal with the influx of patients.

A cholera awareness campaign is under way in Haiti, with information being released through local radio and leaflets.

Cholera is an intestinal infection caused by bacteria transmitted through faecal contamination of water or food. The main symptoms are diarrhoea and vomiting, which can quickly lead to severe, sometimes fatal, dehydration.

It remains unclear how cholera, an outbreak of which has not been reported Haiti in decades, suddenly appeared, particularly when there is such a strong presence of international health agencies since the earthquake.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

Tags: ,
will not be displayed