News / Health

Dominican Republic Reports First Case of Cholera, US Case Also Reported

Vidushi Sinha

Health officials in Haiti say the death toll from the nation's cholera epidemic has risen to more than 1,100, as the government and the United Nations appeal for an end to unrest linked to the outbreak. Haiti's health ministry reported Wednesday that nearly 18,400 people have been hospitalized since the outbreak was first reported late last month.

The cholera epidemic in Haiti is beginning to show up elsewhere in the Americas. Health officials in neighboring Dominican Republic, and in the United States, have reported their first cases, raising fears of a repeat of the 1991 cholera epidemic in Peru.

Dr. Jon Andrus is the deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization, part of the World Health Organization.

"The experience of 1991 resulted in some six years of transmission throughout the Americas," said Dr. Andrus. "So we had this epidemic of cases that continued at lower levels, but eventually countries were able to interrupt transmissions, but it took several years."

The Pan American Health Organization and other health organizations have issued a joint strategy for controlling Haiti's cholera epidemic and reducing its impact.

"Haiti has been successful in eradicating polio, measles and ruebella," he said. "With those successes we know they can do the job. This will be more challenging require much longer term commitment and sustainability of partnership and govt ownership but it can be done."  

Health organizations are already working with the Dominican Republic to prepare for outbreaks there. And they are bracing for outbreaks in other countries in the Americas.

"Given the experience of the 1991 epidemic [in Peru] it is likely that cholera will also spread beyond the island into other countries of the Americas."  

Authorities in the southern U.S. state of Florida say they confirmed a case of cholera in a woman who visited Haiti.  And they say they are investigating other possible cases.

In Haiti, some aid organizations are reportedly focusing on treatment without keeping track of numbers of patients being treated.  Health officials say exact numbers are not important.  All they need to know is where cases are breaking out so they can make sure these areas have the necessary medical supplies.

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