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Haiti - Epidemic : Cholera nationwide, a real possibility
Three days after cholera was confirmed, sources of infection have been reported in the departments of Artibonite and Central. Five cases in the capital Port au Prince have been identified as involving patients who had contracted the illness in Artibonite. A nationwide outbreak with tens of thousands of cases is a real possibility.
"This is an extremely serious situation and based on experience with epidemics elsewhere it would be irresponsible to plan for anything but a considerably wider outbreak," said Mr. Nigel Fisher, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti. "We are particularly concerned about Port au Prince and those in the slum areas as well as in the camps, but we are also preparing for outbreaks in the rest of the country."
Ensuring swift and effective response in areas known to be affected and doing everything possible to prevent the spread of the disease are the main priorities.
In Artibonite, the centre of the outbreak, doctors and epidemic management experts have been mobilized, while medical supplies, including antibiotics and intravenous rehydration equipment have been provided to the main hospital and clinics across the region. Five cholera treatment centres are being erected, and 40 per cent of the population along the River Artibonite (the source of the outbreak) have been reached with oral rehydration salts, water purification tablets. Soap is also being distributed. A large scale public information campaign has also been launched to explain prevention and home treatment.
In Port au Prince, humanitarian agencies and the UN mission MINUSTAH are working closely to support the Government of Haiti in distributing hygiene materials, educating people about prevention and ensuring all medical facilities are on high alert. Six cholera treatment centres will be set up as a precaution, and medical systems are on standby. "We are taking the possibility of an outbreak in the capital very seriously," said Mr. Fisher.
"While we have sufficient supplies to handle this crisis at present, we must look at ensuring additional personnel and bringing in more supplies and support so we are ready to cope if this outbreak spreads further," Mr. Fisher further commented.
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