The cholera epidemic in Haiti continues with little sign of slowing. The numbers vary depending upon who is reporting, but the Health Cluster Bulletin of Nov. 11 quotes the Haitian Ministry of Public Health as reporting 796 deaths and 12,303 hospitalized cases. All 10 of the nation’s departments are affected, as is the capital of Port-au-Prince. Doctors Without Borders reports treating more than 200 cases of cholera in Port-au-Prince.
US Agency for International Development reports spending $2.3 million so far on the cholera epidemic. The United States has sent 29 people from the Centers for Disease Control to Haiti and has an additional 188 people working on this outbreak elsewhere.
The United Nations strategy for the outbreak plans on about 200,000 patients. The UN’s International Organization for Migration is in charge of the management of the 1,300-plus refugee camps in Haiti that still contain about 1.3 million victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake. The IOM is raising funds to conduct prevention and sanitation activities in those camps.
The latest Health Cluster Bulletin identifies three major groups assisting the government of Haiti with its medical treatment. Doctors Without Borders operates several hospitals throughout the country and is assisting in others. The Spanish group MDM is taking on cholera treatment duties along with its existing clinics. The Cubans, with a medical mission of some 252 people, are assuming additional duties in the areas where they have been working.
The site Haiti: Operational Biosurveillance quotes the following from a doctor in Port-au-Prince:
“Stefano Zannini is the Head of Mission for MSF in Haiti. Here he gives a first-person account of the situation on the ground for MSF teams responding to the spread of the outbreak in Port-au-Prince.
It’s a really worrying situation for us at the moment. All of the hospitals in Port-au-Prince are overflowing with patients and we’re seeing seven times the total amount of cases we had three days ago.
In the slum of Cite Soleil, located in the north of the city, yesterday we recorded 216 separate cases of cholera arriving at the hospital, while the total number recorded just 5 days ago was 30. Patients are coming from everywhere, throughout the city, slums and wealthier areas.”
The origin of the outbreak remains a mystery. No case of cholera had been reported in Haiti since 1960. Since the illness is spread from human to human by ingestion of contaminated food or water, someone with the illness traveled to Haiti in the late summer or early fall to begin the outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control have this to say about the origin:
“On November 1, CDC provided the Haitian government with the results of laboratory testing showing that the cholera strain linked to the outbreak is most similar to cholera strains found in South Asia. More work is needed to determine the origin of the cholera strain in Haiti.”
Haitian protestors have blamed United Nations troops from the South Asian nation of Nepal. The United Nations is denying that accusation. There is on on-going cholera outbreak in Nepal.