Haiti Cholera Epidemic Claims 138 Deaths

Haitian President Rene Preval said on Friday cholera had killed at least 138 people in the quake-hit country’s central region and his government was taking measures to contain the epidemic.

It was Haiti’s first cholera epidemic in a century, the World Health Organisation said.

“I can confirm it is cholera,” Preval told Reuters, as Haitian and international health officials confronted the poor Caribbean’s nation’s biggest medical crisis since the January 12 earthquake.

“Now we are making sure people are fully aware of precautionary measures they have to take to prevent contamination,” Preval said in the capital, Port-au-Prince, after meeting with government health officials.

Officials had been awaiting the final results of laboratory tests to determine the cause of a sudden outbreak of acute diarrhea in the Lower Artibonite and Central Plateau regions, north of the crowded, quake-ravaged capital. Haitian health authorities had reported more than 1,500 cases as of late Thursday and local hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients suffering acute diarrhea, with the victims dying from rapid dehydration, sometimes in hours.

Medical teams from the huge international relief effort that has been helping Haiti since the January 12 disaster deployed to the outbreak area around the town of Saint-Marc in Haiti’s central farming region that received many quake survivors.

Aid workers are anxious to stop the disease from spreading to the sprawling camps in the wrecked capital, where 1.5 million people left homeless by the January quake are living in crowded tent and tarpaulin camps. As many as 300,000 people died in the earthquake.

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