Haiti cholera toll rises

2010-11-11 07:53

More than 650 people have died of cholera in Haiti since the start of an outbreak last month, the Haitian journalist group AlterPresse reported late yesterday.

Meanwhile, the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders was awaiting final confirmation that a man who died on Tuesday in the capital, Port-au-Prince, was the first death from the water-borne disease in the earthquake-ravaged capital.

Port-au-Prince and its population of more than 3 million had so far been spared deaths in the cholera outbreak. A January quake wrecked much of the city, where about 1 million people left homeless are still living in crowded camps.

Since the first diagnosis of cholera on October 19 in a rural area outside Port-au-Prince, public health experts have feared that the disease could be devastating if it reached the city’s most vulnerable populations.

The country had inadequate supplies of clean water and poor sanitation even before the earthquake.

“The situation will soon be out of control,” Radio Metropole director Richard Widmaier said yesterday.

The United Nation’s children’s agency, Unicef, warned that several hundred thousand children in the capital were at increased risk.

More than 10 000 people have been infected, AlterPresse reported, citing the Haitian Health Ministry.

Doctors Without Borders said its doctors working in the capital have treated about 200 people suffering from severe diarrhoea, a clinical symptom consistent with cholera.

“Even if very few of those cases have been confirmed as vibrio cholera through laboratory analysis, the severe symptoms of the patients treated in these facilities is extremely concerning,” the group said.

Cholera, which causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting, could quickly lead to lethal dehydration but is easily survivable if treated quickly.

The disease is spread by faecal contamination.

Last week’s Hurricane Tomas dropped heavy rain and caused flooding in Haiti and might have helped spread cholera infections.

In the Artibonite region, where the outbreak was first spotted, about 450 people have died and more than 7 300 have been infected.

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