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Cholera Deaths In Haiti Top 2,500, Health Ministry Says

The Haitian health ministry on Sunday said there had been 2,535 cholera deaths since the outbreak hit in mid-October, “dashing hopes the fatality rate might be beginning to taper off,” Agence France-Presse reports.

“Almost 57,000 of the 114,497 people infected have been treated in hospital. Hopes rose last week that the death rate could be slowing as less than 30 people were shown to have died on two consecutive days,” the news service writes. But earlier tolls were revised on Sunday and official figures showed that 54 people died on December 14, “the most recent day recorded,” AFP notes (12/19).

PAHO Expert Meeting Recommends Starting Cholera Vaccine Program In Haiti Next Year, International Vaccine Stockpile For The Long-Term

Experts at a meeting convened by PAHO on Friday agreed to “start a cholera vaccination program in Haiti,” Reuters reports. “PAHO, the American division of the World Health Organization, had previously opposed vaccination in Haiti on grounds that it would be too difficult and expensive. It changed course on Friday and recommended using the vaccine in Haiti, partly because it has discovered a stockpile of additional vaccine and partly out of recognition that the outbreak would not be halted any time soon,” the news service writes (Sutton, 12/18).

The group “urged the creation of an international stockpile of cholera vaccine and called for the use of current vaccines in a pilot project in Haiti that would be expanded as more vaccine becomes available,” according to a PAHO press release. “In the short term, we should make use of the limited amount of vaccine we have,” said Roger Glass, director of the Fogarty International Center and associate director for international research at the NIH. “In the long term, we need to make sure we have adequate supplies to respond to cholera in Haiti, in the Americas, and around the world,” Glass said (12/17).

The PAHO group recommended that “global public health agencies and the government of Haiti should press ahead with cholera vaccination as fast as possible,” NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. “That means talking with vaccine makers on a monthly basis to see how much they can produce. Meanwhile, PAHO and its parent agency, the World Health Organization, should raise money to pay for as much cholera vaccine as the makers can crank out, the advisers say,” according to the blog.

The aim should be to “start a demonstration project in Haiti in March or April of next year, with continuation [in 2012] if vaccine becomes available and could be financed,” said Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Ciro de Quadros, who led the PAHO meeting. De Quadros discusses the logistics of scaling up global cholera vaccine production in the blog post.

“There are not enough [cholera] vaccine doses available in the world today,” according to de Quadros. “It’s less than 300,000 doses within the next three or four months,” he said (Knox, 12/17).

U.N. Secretary-General To Establish Independent Scientific Panel To Look Into Source Of Haitian Cholera Outbreak

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “announced the establishment of an international scientific panel Friday to investigate the source of the deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti,” the Associated Press reports (12/17). 

At a news conference, “Ban noted there were several theories [about the source of the outbreak], and not all reports reached the same conclusion,” the U.N. News Centre writes. “But there remain fair questions and legitimate concerns that demand the best answer that science can provide,” Ban said. “That is why, pursuant to close consultation with Dr. Margaret Chan of WHO, I am announcing today the creation of an international scientific panel to investigate the source of the cholera epidemic,” he said.

“The panel will be completely independent and have full access to all U.N. premises and personnel, he stressed, adding that further details will be provided when it is finalized,” according to the news service.

At the news conference, Ban also appealed for more funds to fight the Haitian cholera epidemic, “noting that a $164 million appeal is only 21 percent funded,” the U.N. News Centre writes. “Haiti needs more doctors, nurses, medical supplies, and it needs them urgently … Our first priority continues to be saving lives,” Ban said (12/17).

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