Nearly 200 dead in Haitian cholera outbreak

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Image of cholera bacteria
Image: Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility.

Nearly 200 people are confirmed dead and approximately 2600 are ill in a central Haitian cholera outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and United Nations (UN). Haitian officials place the death toll at 194 deaths with 2,364 people being infected.

According to CDC officials Dr. Rob Quick and Dr. Carleene Dei an eleven man team is being sent to Haiti to investigate and determine the best course of action for the country. The USAID has said that they will provide supplies to set up treatment centers and have already provided 300,000 oral re-hydration kits and water purification kits.

A majority of the reported cases are in the Central Plateau and Artibonite regions located just north of the earthquake ravaged capital, Port-Au-Prince. Officials fear that the disease could spread to the capital city if not brought under control. It has been reported that many people are flooding the St. Nicolas hospital, which is the main medical facility in St. Marc, for treatment, causing pandemonium outside the gate. An aid worker who visited the hospital called it a "horror scene", while another worker, David Darg, of Operation Blessing International wrote "The courtyard was lined with patients hooked up to intravenous drips. It had just rained and there were people lying on the ground on soggy sheets, half-soaked with feces."

The cholera outbreak developed after recent rains flooded the Artibonite River, however it is not certain whether this was the cause of the outbreak. According to the CDC, cholera is "an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae." They also said that "Approximately one in 20 infected persons has severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these persons, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours." Cholera is passed on through contaminated water.


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