Cholera cases drop in Haiti

December 21, 2011

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti has seen a steady decline in  the number of cholera cases as the Caribbean nation settles into its dry season,  humanitarian groups said yesterday.

The number of cholera cases has dropped to an average of 10 to 20  cases a day in two separate treatment centres in the crowded capital of  Port-au-Prince compared to a bump of an average of 30 to 40 cases a day a month  ago, said Dr Wendy Lai, a medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders  Holland.

The current figures are close to an earlier low of nine to 15  cases seen at its treatment centres in July, Lai said.

“We’re pretty close to the low as we’ve ever been,” she said by  telephone.

The cholera infection rate has fluctuated through Haiti’s rainy  and dry seasons, with the spikes largely attributable to the showers and floods  that cause the waterborne disease to spread more freely in an unsanitary  environment.

That was evident at a Doctors Without Borders treatment center in  the densely populated area of Carrefour during last spring’s rainy season, when  as many as 300 new cases were reported a day, Lai said.

The seasonal decline in the number of cholera cases is consistent  with the findings of a report released yesterday by the United Nations Office  for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The bulletin reported health officials logging an average of 300  cases nationwide per day, compared to 500 cases a month ago.

The same agency reported that fatality rates continue to drop or  have stabilised in almost all of Haiti’s 10 departments, with the exception of  the Southeast where it jumped from 2.2 per cent in January to 2.4 per cent in  November.

The mortality rate was once as high as five per cent but has since  dropped as Haitians educate themselves through government and aid agency  campaigns about how to seek treatment and avoid the disease. Though easily  treatable, cholera causes rapid dehydration and can kill within hours.

The initial mortality rate stemmed in part because the disease was  alien to Haiti and few understood it.

There had been no documented cases of cholera in Haiti before the  outbreak began a year ago. It was likely introduced to the country through a UN  peacekeeping battalion from Nepal, where the disease is endemic.

Haiti now has the highest cholera infection rate in the world.  Health officials say the disease has killed nearly 7,000 people and sickened  another 515,000.

The alleged source of the disease has since become a contentious  issue.

Last month, the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy  in Haiti filed a claim against the United Nations on behalf of more than 5,000  cholera victims on the grounds that the world body was responsible for the  epidemic.

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