The death toll from Haiti’s cholera epidemic reached up to 300 on Tuesday, as health experts said the disease was bound to “settle” along with other endemic diseases like malaria or tuberculosis in the devastated nation which was struck by a massive earthquake in January.
Cholera, which is a deadly diarrheal disease, has persisted in Haiti for a week now and has so far affected central Artibonite and Central Plateau areas, killing 295 people and 3,612 cases have been registered to date, Haitian health authorities said.
Even though the death rates have slowed down in the past days, a UN-led international medical response is struggling to avert the outbreak from spreading in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince. The capital comprises of 1.3 million homeless survivors of the massive January 12 earthquake.
This is the new series of crises in Haiti, which is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, following the earthquake that killed over a half a million people9-1/2 months ago.
It comes a month before the country is due to have presidential and legislative elections – on November 28. The polls continue to go ahead despite the outbreak, director general of Haiti’s provisional electoral councilPierre-Louis Opont said.
The UN and the government along with the foreign aid partners are guessing the disease will spread. They have united in launching atreatment, containment and prevention strategy for Haiti.
Dr. Michel Thieren, the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) top official in Haiti said there was a decrease in the death rates and cases, which he insisted was encouraging and attributable to the intensive multinational medical response taking place.
But the epidemic could join diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and HIV AIDS which have distressed the impoverished Haitians for years, Thieren said.
In addition, the UN said that a nationwide outbreak of the disease is “a real possibility”. For this reason, the international humanitarian operation is sending doctors, nurses and medicines to the area surrounding the Artibonite River, which is suspected as the likely cause of the source of the disease.
In the outbreak zone, and other areas including Port-au-Prince, special cholera treatment centers have been set up. Education campaigns are encouraging people to wash their hands with soap, stop eating raw vegetables, and boil food and drinking water before eating.