Cholera Outbreak In Haiti Widens; Fears Over Outbreak In Port-au-Prince

Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, which was devastated by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12.
Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, which was devastated by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12.
Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, which was devastated by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12.

Today in Latin America

Top Story — The cholera outbreak in Haiti has claimed the lives of more than 250 people and infected over 3,000 as fears rise that the outbreak will spread to the earthquake-ravaged capital of Port-au-Prince.

The outbreak, which was first identified late last week, is centered in the Lower Artibonite region, north of  of Port-au-Prince and is believed to have originated from a local river. Cholera, which causes diarrhea and vomiting that leads to severe dehydration, can kill a person within hours if untreated.

There have been five cholera patients in the Haitian capital, but they have so far been isolated incidents. Authorities worry that widespread poverty and poor sanitation, due in part to the massive earthquake earlier this year, could allow the outbreak to spread quickly throughout the city.

“It’s not difficult to prevent the spread to Port-au-Prince. We can prevent it,” said Health Ministry director Gabriel Timothee, according to The Associated Press. Haitian officials over the weekend were optimistic that the bacterial disease could be confined to the rural areas.

Cholera has not been present in Haiti since the 1960s and health officials did not predict that it would reemerge in the country. However aid workers are ready to respond to the outbreak with supplies of clean water being trucked in and cholera clinics set up to provide specialized, contained treatment for the sick.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is in the Artibonite region where 20 staff members are working to save sick patients and prevent the bacterial disease from spreading.

“There are significant numbers of patients in St. Nicholas Hospital in St. Marc, which does not have the capacity to handle a cholera emergency,” said Federica Nogarotto, MSF emergency coordinator in St. Marc, Haiti. “The most important thing is to isolate the cholera patients there from the rest of the patients, in order to best treat those people who are infected and to prevent further spread of the disease. This will also enable the hospital to run as normally as possible. We are setting up a separate, isolated cholera treatment center now.”

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