Cholera’s Spread Less Lethal in Haiti: Health Officials

Por Dialogo
diciembre 03, 2010

The cholera epidemic gripping Haiti in the wake of disputed elections continues to spread throughout the country but is less lethal, the Pan American Health Organization said on 1 December.

“We went from 9 percent of cases dying in the early days to 2.3 percent now,” said Donna Eberwine-Villagran, a spokeswoman for PAHO, a local branch of the World Health Organization.

“It’s improving,” she told AFP, but adding that the number of cases would continue to rise.

According to the latest official tally, 1,817 people have died from the disease in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas that is still reeling from a devastating earthquake in January that killed over 250,000 people and left over a million homeless.

A total of 80,860 cases have been recorded for this highly contagious disease, with 36,207 hospitalizations.

Eberwine-Villagran warned the official toll was largely underestimated.

“There is no way to estimate the toll,” she added. “Cholera can kill people within hours if it is not treated… The Haitians were never exposed to cholera before, so they didn’t know what to do.”

The PAHO has estimated cholera could see up to 400,000 cases over the next 12 months, half of them within three months alone.

Haiti’s Health Ministry, the PAHO and the International Organization for Migration have evaluated 80 care centers in the country and found that 38 of them were suitable for cholera treatment centers or oral rehydration posts (ORPs).

“The plan is create 250 ORPs to provide first-line cholera treatment in camps, which were prioritized according to environmental risks and poor coverage by sanitation and health services,” PAHO said.

Amid the epidemic, Haitians were also waiting for results of 28 November’s national elections. Although they are not due to be announced for weeks, an unexpected and candid admission from the ruling INITE (UNITY) party that it may have lost mustered belief that a real political shift was imminent.

MINUSTAH, the UN stabilization mission in Haiti called for patience so that the process of verifying results may go forward smoothly. It also urged Haitians to be skeptical of non-official results.

Widespread fraud allegations following the polls have added to the climate of intimidation and fear that persists in Haiti, a Caribbean nation whose recent past is plagued by dictatorships and violent political upheaval.