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Cholera outbreak in Haiti

It emerged on Friday that an outbreak of cholera had hit the rural Artibonite region of Haiti. The number of reported cases rose over the weekend to 3,000 with 254 people confirmed dead, according to the UN’s figures yesterday. However, the spread of the disease is beginning to slow down as treatment and preventative measures take effect.

Being prepared

Concern Worldwide, along with the international humanitarian community and the Haitian government, has feared a cholera outbreak since the earthquake struck in Port-au-Prince. Although these fears have now been realised, the preventative measures we’ve already taken, and which are now being doubled, are keeping the outbreak from spreading.

Preventing an epidemic

Our top priority is preventing the disease from reaching camps that house up to a million displaced people. They were left homeless following the earthquake. So far, Haiti’s health ministry have confirmed five cases of cholera in Port-au-Prince, but all five people had been infected while travelling to the Artibonite region. There is hope that the spread of the disease can be stopped by taking extra precautions. Concern’s overseas director, Paul O’Brien, said:

Our coordinated efforts thus far to prevent a major public health crisis from developing in Port-au-Prince have been successful. We are now working to support partners responding to the outbreak in Artibonite, while at the same time re-doubling water treatment and other prevention efforts to prevent the outbreak from spreading to Port-au-Prince.

Top priorities

Early detection and effective treatment are key to controlling the cholera outbreak. Other top priorities include setting up cholera treatment units, running health and hygiene awareness campaigns to at-risk populations, and taking measures to protect water supplies and sanitation. Concern’s country director in Haiti, Elke Leidel, explained:

Right now, prevention is possible. Our teams in Port-au-Prince are distributing water purification tablets and we are increasing chlorination of water supplies. We have also already launched an intense public health and sensitisation campaign to prevent at-risk communities from becoming infected. We are alerting people living in overcrowded camps to boil their drinking water, use water purification tablets, wash their hands with soap, and where to seek treatment at the first signs of illness. These are simple messages, but they can save lives.

Paul O’Brien recently spoke to America’s NPR News about the outbreak and Concern’s preparedness. Listen to the interview.

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