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‘Exact Correlation’ Between Peacekeeper Arrival And Cholera Outbreak In Haiti, Study Says

“Evidence ‘strongly suggests’ that a United Nations peacekeeping mission brought a cholera strain to Haiti that has killed thousands of people,” according to a study conducted by a team of epidemiologists and physicians and published in the July issue of the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Associated Press reports.  The Haitian government has recorded more than 363,000 cases of cholera more than 5,500 deaths since the outbreak began in October.

“The article says there is ‘an exact correlation’ in time and place between the arrival of a Nepalese battalion from an area of its South Asian homeland that was experiencing a cholera outbreak and the appearance of the first cases in the Meille river a few days later,” the news service writes.

U.N. mission spokesperson Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg, in an email to the AP, “didn’t comment on the findings” of the most recent study but referred to a U.N.-commissioned report published in May that “attributed the outbreak to a ‘confluence of circumstances,’ including a lack of water infrastructure in Haiti and Haitians’ dependence on the river system” and “refrained from blaming any single group for the outbreak,” according to the news service (Daniel/Katz, 6/29).

In an accompanying editorial, two public health experts from CDC said the fact that cholera was introduced to Haiti by a traveler from abroad “raises important public health considerations.” They write, “These travelers and their service organizations should take appropriate precautions (such as vaccination and chemoprophylaxis) to protect themselves and to forestall introducing such pathogens to local populations” (Dowell/Braden, July 2011).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.