Cholera Confirmed In Haiti’s Capital As Health Ministry Says Outbreak Has Killed 544 So Far

Haiti’s cholera outbreak appears to have spread to its capital, “imperiling nearly 3 million people living in Port-au-Prince, nearly half of them in unsanitary tent camps for the homeless from the Jan. 12 earthquake,” the Associated Press/KIRO reports.  

“Health authorities told The Associated Press on Monday that tests confirmed a 3-year-old boy who hadn’t been out of the city had caught the disease. More than 100 other suspected cholera cases among city residents also were being tested. … The boy was tested after being taken to the Bernard Mevs/Project Medishare hospital Oct. 31 suffering from severe dehydration, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. He was treated with oral rehydration, IV fluids and antibiotics and released. A stool sample tested by Haiti’s national laboratory contained vibrio cholerae 01, the bacteria causing the disease, the chief medical officer, Dr. Antonia Eyssallenne, confirmed to AP in an e-mail. The boy’s family had not traveled in more than a year or had contact with anyone from the Artibonite Valley, where the epidemic was first registered and has wreaked its most ferocious damage,” the news service writes (Katz, 11/8). So far, cholera has “been confirmed in half of Haiti’s 10 provinces,” according to NPR (Beaubien, 11/9).

In another development on Monday, the Haitian health ministry said 544 had died as a result of the cholera outbreak and more than 8,000 people had been hospitalized for treatment, Agence France-Presse reports (11/8). Though “Hurricane Tomas passed to the west of the crowded Haitian capital Port au Prince … mostly sparing the vulnerable earthquake resettlement camps,” authorities are now concerned about how the heavy rains will affect the cholera situation, the Baltimore Sun’s “Maryland Weather” blog writes (Roylance, 11/8). 

“A river that has been a source of the cholera epidemic is expected to overflow, officials in Haiti said Sunday,” CBC News reports (11/7). “The peak of the cholera epidemic will come ‘earlier and faster’ because of Hurricane Tomas, [according to] Christian Lindmeier, a World Health Organisation press officer,” Inter Press Service reports in a story examining the impact of the rains on Haiti’s tent camps (Herz, 11/7).

The New York Times looks at efforts to prevent the spread of the disease and notes some of the most pressing challenges. “In the countryside, medical workers from Doctors Without Borders have quickly found that they have to battle not only the water, which is everywhere, but also the fact that generations of Haitians use the river and its tributaries for almost everything,” the newspaper reports.

“Rice farming requires heavy water use, and irrigation ditches and branches from the Artibonite lace through here. The people cook with the water and wash clothes in it. And most alarmingly for those trying to check the spread of cholera, which is found in feces and spread through water, the people sometimes defecate in it,” the article reports (Archibold, 11/8).

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