'Explosive' Haitian cholera outbreak kills 292, neighboring countries prepare

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Damage from the Haitian earthquake
Image: Logan Abassi, UN.

The Haitian cholera outbreak has killed 292 people and infected over 4000, according to the Haitian government, although there are no new cases in the earthquake ravaged capital, Port-au-Prince. Neighboring countries, Dominican Republic and Jamaica have begun to implement measures to prevent the disease from spreading.

We are seeing a very rapid, very explosive outbreak with a very steep academic curve

—Jon Andrus

The Deputy Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Jon Andrus said, "health aides are in Haitian camps, educating people about proper food, water and waste treatment." He also added that "the goal is to provide 24-hours-a-day medical care."

The United Nations (UN) is calling the cholera outbreak "extremely serious" and it would be "irresponsible to plan for anything but a considerably wider outbreak." A United Nations spokesperson also expressed concerned that the disease might become more widespread. Members of CARE medical teams have been working non-stop to treat the sick, but the number of people who need treatment still remain high.

We should take special care to ensure that our children do not play in dirty or stagnant water or swim in rivers, since cholera is essentially a water-borne disease

—Jamaican PM, Bruce Golding

Although no cases of the disease have been reported in the Dominican Republic or Jamaica, the countries are beefing up their defenses. The Jamaican Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, said yesterday that the coast guard have increased their high seas patrols to prevent individuals infected with the disease from fleeing to the country. He also added that "we must all ensure that we practise good hygiene, wash our hands with soap regularly, drink only boiled water or bottled water." Golding informed the cabinet that the Ministry of Health has begun to beef up operations in select towns which are still suffering from high waters due to the passage of Tropical Storm Nicole.

In the Dominican Republic health officials are present and are currently putting measures in place to prevent the disease from spreading over to the country. These include tight border control and bans on cooked or raw food from Haiti.