Friday 12 November 2010

Cholera threatens to "overwhelm" Haiti

As had been feared (see my blog of Oct 23), cholera is now spreading rapidly through the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. The disease broke out last month in the Artibonite River valley about 60 miles away, and it was hoped for a while that it might be prevented from reaching the capital where more than a million people are still living in tents after January’s earthquake.

Eighty Haitians have died of cholera in the last 24 hours, taking the total to more than 720, and there are about 11,000 cases, with 1,000 new ones each day. The head of infectious diseases at Port-au-Prince’s main public hospital has warned that if this goes on, they will be “overwhelmed”. The situation has been worsened by Hurricane Tomas, which caused widespread flooding last week, in addition to killing at least 20 people.

Cholera is spread by water and causes diarrhoea and vomiting, leading to severe dehydration. It can kill very quickly and horribly, but it can be easily treated through antibiotics and replacement of lost fluids and salts, so long as these are available. (For more details about cholera, see A Disastrous History of the World.)

The billions of dollars of aid promised by the rest of the world to Haiti after the earthquake has been slow in arriving, with only just over a third delivered so far.

*Yesterday was Remembrance Day. See

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