- Title: USA/HAITI: As many as 400,000 cases of cholera in Haiti within a year says PAHO
- Date: 24th November 2010
- Summary: CHILDREN WALKING
- Embargoed: 9th December 2010 12:00
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes,Health
- Reuters ID: LVAC88PYE7D12ZD3YILSOZTJZNMM
- Story Text: The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Tuesday (November 23) that it estimates the cholera epidemic in Haiti could affect as many as 400,000 people over the next year and could spread to other countries in the Western Hemisphere.
PAHO Deputy Director Dr. Jon Andrus said that in light of the rapid transmission of the disease, the organization is taking steps to prepare for treating hundreds of thousands of people in the next few months.
"We need to plan for enough supplies to treat as many as 400,00 cholera cases occurring over the next 12 months. We need to plan for up to half of those cases occurring over the next three months because of the explosive nature of this epidemic," he said at a Washington, D.C. news conference.
Cholera is basically spread by contaminated water and food, rather than person-to-person contact.
Andrus said PAHO had implemented a new alert and response unit which focuses its efforts both on treating the infected and providing a safe water supply to prevent further cases.
"The alert and response unit will identify and investigate hot spots of increases in cases or deaths and then help mobilize teams to respond," he said.
"In the short term, efforts must focus on distributing chlorine tablets as well as make rehydration salts available to everyone. In the long term, we must create systems and infrastructure to ensure equitable access to these basic services. Official reports confirm eight of 10 departments within Haiti with cholera. We know that in the other two departments, clusters of cases are now being investigated. So, for all intents and purposes, as we fully expected before, cholera is virtually everywhere in the country," he added.
The outbreak of the deadly diarrheal disease has heaped misery on Haiti's population of 10 million which is still struggling to recover from a January 12 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people.
But, Andrus warned, that the misery may not be contained to Haiti. Recalling the 1991 cholera epidemic that began in Peru and spread to 16 countries in the Americas within two years, Andrus said other countries in the Western Hemisphere should prepare for the illness' appearance now.
"Our message to health authorities is that they should begin preparing now before the appearance of cases," he said. "PAHO is recommending a series of measures that include: stepped-up surveillance to ensure that any potential cholera cases are rapidly identified, strengthening preparedness and response plans to ensure that countries' health systems are able to deal with any sudden surge or emergence of cholera, improving water and sanitation services to prevent the spread and finally, increased public education."
As of Friday (November 19), the month-old epidemic had killed 1,344 people in the earthquake-ravaged nation.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and even before the deadly earthquake earlier this year, struggled with a high crime rate, HIV-infection, lack of medical care, poor sanitation, malnutrition, transportation and infrastructure problems.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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