Haiti reports further cholera spread

Nov 22, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – In its latest update, Haiti's health ministry said today that 56,901 people have been treated for cholera infections, of which 21,665 were hospitalized and 1,344 died, according to preliminary data as of Nov 19 from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Cases have been recorded in 8 of Haiti's 10 departments, and health officials are investigating a cluster of cases in Grande Anse and Nippes, the remaining two neighboring departments in the southwestern part of Haiti.

Meanwhile, workers hired by the health ministry to collect and transport dead bodies of cholera victims were stoned and threatened on Nov 20 by angry residents in the city of Carrefour, a commune in the Port-au-Prince area, the Miami Herald reported yesterday. The residents didn't want the truck carrying bodies entering their area, because they were afraid it would spread the disease, according to the Herald report.

In other developments, weather conditions may have played a major role in launching Haiti's cholera update, according to three US scientists quoted in a Nov 19 report in SciDev.Net, a nonprofit online news portal supported by international aid agencies. The location of a United Nation's peacekeeping base housing Nepalese soldiers near the Artibonite River, where the outbreak apparently began, has fueled speculation that the troops may have brought the disease into the country.

However, the scientists said climate changes caused by the La Nina phenomenon combined with poor water quality and sanitation in the wake of the January earthquake present a more likely explanation for the outbreak.

Dr David Sack, a disease specialist from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the Vibrio cholerae could have been dormant in the water until weather conditions provided a favorable environment for them to multiply. Dr Rita Colwell, from the University of Maryland, told SciDev.Net that higher sea temperatures were also present during cholera outbreaks in Bangladesh and Peru.

See also:

Nov 19 SciDev.Net report

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