Cholera quietly still kills dozens a month in Haiti

Cholera quietly still kills dozens a month in Haiti
Updated 03 March 2016

Cholera quietly still kills dozens a month in Haiti

Cholera quietly still kills dozens a month in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE: A dozen people reclined on cots inside the clinic in the Haitian capital, a few so sick they were receiving intravenous infusions to rehydrate their bodies and spare them an agonizing death.
The worst off one recent morning was a thin and spectral man, weak from the vomiting and diarrhea caused by cholera. But all were expected to survive. The disease spread by contaminated water is easily treatable but can lead to death within hours if unattended.
“However I got it, I really hope I never get this sick again,” another patient, Estin Josue, said as he recovered inside an immaculately clean and orderly treatment center in downtown Port-au-Prince run by Gheskio Centers, a Haitian medical organization.
Josue and his fellow patients were relatively lucky, getting sick relatively close to the country’s first permanent cholera treatment center. Many others are not as fortunate as Haiti continues to wrestle with the worst outbreak of the disease in recent history.
Cholera, which arrived in Haiti in October 2010, has sickened more than 770,000 people, or about 7 percent of the population, and killed more than 9,200. So far this year, it has sickened more than 6,000 and is killing an average of 37 people a month.
The persistence of the preventable disease has alarmed public health experts who fear that attention and resources have been diverted by newer challenges, including the regional spread of the Zika virus and the political crisis that recently halted Haiti’s elections.
World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl said cholera is now considered “endemic” in Haiti, meaning it’s an illness that occurs regularly. Others have noted the cholera bacterium now appears to be firmly established in Haiti’s rivers, estuaries and even coastal waters.
“Once it is established in a country’s aquatic reservoir it is extremely difficult to eradicate,” said Afsar Ali, a researcher at the University of Florida who has led studies of cholera in Haiti for years.
Dr. Joseph Donald Francois, who coordinates the health ministry’s efforts to combat the illness, still believes Haiti, with international help, can eliminate cholera by 2022.