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CNN Reports On Recent Uptick In Cholera Cases Worldwide

CNN’s “the chart” blog examines the rising number of cholera cases around the world. In addition to the cholera outbreak in Haiti, “[a]s of this month, four African nations – Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger – have reported more than 40,000 cases of cholera and more than 2,000 deaths. And Pakistan, a country that is still suffering from the effects of horrific floods, also is reporting 100+ cases of cholera since last month.”

Though the WHO estimates there are 3 to 5 million reported cholera cases and 100,000 to 120,000 deaths each year, “[g]lobally, the number of cholera cases reported to WHO continues to rise. From 2004 to 2008, cases increased by 24 percent compared with the period from 2000 to 2004, according to the organization.”

WHO points to unclean water sources as the main source of cholera outbreaks, but “also noted the rise in cholera cases might be due to a new series of variant strains detected in several parts of Asia and Africa. [The organization’s] data suggest that these strains cause more severe cholera with higher fatality rates. Experts also say the re-emergence of cholera is connected to the increasing numbers of populations across the globe living in unsanitary conditions.” The blog includes quotes from Jon Andrus, deputy director of PAHO, who notes Haitian officials have yet to determine the source of the outbreak to date. Andrus also mentions ongoing efforts to educate the public on the ability of hygienic practices, such as handwashing, can reduce the spread of the disease (Willingham, 10/27).

Media Outlets Track Cholera Outbreak In Haiti As Questions Over Source Of Outbreak Emerge

In Haiti, the cholera epidemic “continued to spread, with cases confirmed in two new departments in Haiti’s north and northeast, said U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokeswoman Imogen Wall. At least 303 people have died and 4,722 been hospitalized,” the Associated Press reports. As international aid workers focus on containing the outbreak, the news service writes, “Haitians are increasingly turning their attention to its origins: How did a disease which has not been seen in Haiti since the early 20th century suddenly erupt in the countryside?” According to the AP, U.N. investigators are looking into allegations that a leaking septic tank from a Nepalese peacekeeping base was the source of the outbreak and have collected samples from the site to test for cholera.

“The mission strongly denies its base was a cause of the infection. [Mission spokesman Vincenzo] Pugliese said civilian engineers collected samples from the base on Friday which tested negative for cholera and the mission’s military force commander ordered the additional tests to confirm. He said no members of the Nepalese battalion, whose current members arrived in early October for a six-month rotation, have the disease,” the AP reports.

According to researchers, a strain of cholera identified in Nepal in 2008-2009 is the same strain identified in Haiti. The AP contrasts the statements issued by the U.N. Tuesday defending the base with an account of the unsanitary conditions found at the base (10/27).

“[E]ven before the January earthquake that displaced 1.5 million people in Port-au-Prince, access to these [sanitation] services in Haiti was among the worst in the world,” PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” blog reports in a piece examining how the cholera outbreaks have exposed the country’s fractured water and sanitation infrastructure. According to the NGO Oxfam International, “[l]ess than half of Haitians could get clean water, and only 20 percent had access to a toilet,” the blog writes.

“As part of the emergency intervention, 22 rural towns have received helicopter deliveries of chlorine, according to UNICEF, which co-chairs the water and sanitation effort with the Haitian government. … Oxfam and several other NGOs are also now providing water purification tablets, rehydration salts packs, and bars of soap to the region.” The blog notes the long-term challenges the country faces and includes comments from Claire-Lise Chaignat of WHO, Mark Henderson, chief of the water and sanitation programs for UNICEF in Haiti, Jenafir House of World Vision and Julie Schindall of Oxfam in Haiti (Miller, 10/27).

The GlobalPost examines additional efforts aid organizations are making in an attempt to stem the spread of the disease from reaching other regions of the country, including Haiti’s tent camps, where the news service writes “1.3 million people still live.”

“[M]edical nongovernmental organizations, including Doctors Without Borders, are setting up temporary clinics in the hardest-hit areas so patients don’t need to travel as far. Other humanitarian groups like the Red Cross are broadcasting public service announcements over radio and sending text messages to advise people how to prevent the spread of cholera,” the news service writes. The piece notes that there is a scarcity of water and toilets in the tent camps and includes comments by David Olson, medical adviser for Doctors Without Borders, Nigel Fisher, coordinator for Haiti’s international humanitarian relief, as well as a director of a grassroots Haitian organization and a professor from York College (Kushner, 10/28).

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