The U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana has issued an alert for cholera in Cuba prompting allegations that the island is covering up the outbreak to avoid sabotaging its $2.5 billion-a-year tourism industry.
“Media reports have indicated that cases of cholera have been identified in the city of Havana, possibly linked to a reported outbreak of cholera in eastern Cuba,” read a statement posted on the mission’s Web page Wednesday citing The Panamerican Health Organization.
PAHO issued an epidemiological alert confirming that foreign travelers had contracted the infection during recent trips to Cuba.
The Florida Department of Health said Wednesday that there had been no reports of cholera imported from the island following the tens of thousands of visits reportedly made by Cuban-Americans during the summer period.
Cuba's government has barely addressed the recent cases of cholera in the country.
“Of course nobody wants to say they have outbreaks because outbreaks cause a decline in tourism,” said Sherri Porcelain, a senior lecturer in global public health in world affairs at the University of Miami who has been tracking the outbreak.
The statement identified "eating or drinking fecally contaminated food or water" as the main factor in contracting the infection. The U.S. Interest Section in Cuba urged American citizens traveling abroad to regularly monitor the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website for further updates on the outbreak, in addition to complying with sanitary measures associated with personal hygiene, water and food.
Cholera is an infection that causes intense diarrhea that can lead to dehydration and death.