Cholera outbreak moves into Port-au-Prince

Oct. 25, 2010 at 10:22 AM
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- Haitian and international health agencies are mustering a swift response to the spread of a cholera outbreak that has reached Port-au-Prince, officials said.

"There is a great potential for the fast spread of the disease in congested and unsanitary camps and surrounding neighborhoods, particularly in the middle of the rainy season," Melody Munz, environmental health coordinator for the International Rescue Committee in Haiti, said Sunday in a release. "With the crowding and potential for flooding, the conditions are ripe. It can spread through the city in a matter of days."

Haiti's Health Ministry reported that, as of Sunday, the cholera epidemic killed 220 people and sickened 2,674 others in the country. The disease causes severe vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and death within a few hours.

Health officials said at least five cholera cases have been confirmed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's densely-populated capital.

More than a million people have lived in tent cities in and around Port-au-Prince since a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake that killed about 230,000 people.

The key to curbing the spread of the highly contagious disease is prevention, Munz said. The international aid community is working with local officials to ensure drinking water is systematically treated at its source, she said.

The International Rescue Committee also has begun prevention activities in 30 settlements it operates, focusing on chlorinating water sources and promoting good hygiene and sanitation practices, Munz said.

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