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200,000 Haitians Expected to be Hit by Cholera

Man carries girl who has symptoms of cholera at entrance of St. Catherine hospital in Cite Soleil neighborhood, in Port-au-Prince, 11 Nov 2010

The United Nations is appealing for nearly $164 million for cholera relief in Haiti over the next six months. Aid agencies say the epidemic is worsening and they anticipate up to 200,000 people will show symptoms of cholera in the coming six months.

Latest World Health Organization (WHO) figures report more than 11,000 Haitians have been hospitalized and nearly 725 have died since the cholera outbreak was confirmed on October 22.

The epidemic has spread to the capital Port-au-Prince. Aid agencies fear the disease could spread easily among the more than one million internally displaced people who live in cramped, unsanitary camp conditions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports so far 278 people have been hospitalized, including 10 deaths, in Port-au-Prince.

WHO Spokesman, Gregory Hartl says the projection of 200,000 cases over the next six months shows the amplitude of what can be expected. He says the current fatality rate of 6.5 percent is far higher than it should be.

"No one alive in Haiti has experienced cholera before," said Hartl. "So, it is a population, which is very susceptible to the bacteria. And, once it is in water systems, it transmits very easily and it transmits among people who are often asymptomatic. Cholera, now that it is in Haiti, probably the bacteria will be there for a number of years to come. It will not go away. But, the goal of this has to be to reduce the public health impact of the outbreak."

The United Nations multi-million dollar appeal will be used by U.N. and private aid agencies to swiftly scale up the response to the growing cholera crisis.

WHO officials say the donated money will be used to bring in additional doctors, buy more medical, water purification and other essential equipment. It will provide greater access to health services, increase disease surveillance and ensure clean water and safe sanitation.

United Nations officials say they expect cholera cases to appear in a burst of epidemics. They say that will happen suddenly in different parts of the country for at least six months.

A U.N. spokeswoman says the U.N. needs the money urgently. Otherwise she warns all aid efforts can be outrun by the epidemic.