“Global and local health authorities are not doing enough to fight a cholera outbreak that continues to claim lives in Haiti, Doctors Without Borders said Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports (6/15). Despite a decline in the number of cholera cases in Haiti “as the Caribbean nation leaves the annual rainy season,” “the Haitian government and health organizations must continue focusing efforts on stemming the outbreak as the height of the hurricane season nears, said Thierry Goffeau, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders in Haiti,” the Associated Press/New England Cable News writes (6/15).
NPR’s “Shots” blog reports on efforts to determine the source of Haiti’s cholera epidemic, writing, “Most researchers currently believe that United Nations peacekeeping soldiers introduced cholera to Haiti in October of 2010,” but researchers from the University of Maryland report they “have found two very different cholera strains in some of the first Haitians to be struck by the disease.” According to the blog, “One is a so-called 01 serotype with close resemblance to the Nepalese strain, found in about half the patients sampled,” while “[t]he other is a type called non-01/O139 that has never been known to cause an epidemic; it was found in 21 percent of patients.”
Haiti has “reported new cases of cholera as aftermath of the tropical storm Isaac, but Public Health Ministry General Director Guirlene Raymond said that “so far the numbers do not match outbreak ratings,” Prensa Latina reports (8/30). “Donald Francis, in charge of the disease in the ministry [of health], said that there is a stability in the incidence of the disease in Haiti,” Bernama/NNN writes, adding, “According to official statistics, as of early July the number of cholera deaths since its appearance in October 2010 had risen to 7,418” (8/30).
“Cuba’s government declared Tuesday that health workers had eradicated a cholera outbreak that infected 417 people and killed three, according to a statement from the country’s Health Ministry,” CNN reports (Oppmann, 8/28). The government said this year’s heavy rains and high temperatures raised the risk of waterborne diarrheal diseases, the Associated Press/Boston.com notes (8/28). The cholera outbreak began in Granma province’s Manzanillo, about 560 miles east of Havana, and the government said other cases “associated” with the outbreak occurred in other areas of the province, the neighboring provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo, and in the capital of Havana, according to EFE/Fox News Latino. “Despite the fact that it said the outbreak was ‘concluded,’ the Cuban government is also saying it will maintain its vigilance to avoid ‘the recurrence of new cases,'” the news service writes (8/28).
In three separate articles, IRIN reports on the implications of flooding taking place in Africa. “Tens of thousands of people have been affected by flooding in parts of central, eastern and southern Chad following heavy rains in August,” the news service writes in the first article, adding that the floods have affected 445,725 people and destroyed 255,720 hectares of cropland. “The flooding is occurring at a time when Chad is still grappling with food insecurity,” IRIN states, noting, “Waterborne diseases, such as cholera, are endemic in some of the West and Central African countries, often peaking during the rainy season between August and December” (9/7).
In this post in the ONE Blog, John Anner, president of the East Meets West Foundation, discusses how the foundation is helping to improve sanitation and hygiene practices among poor populations. “As leaders gathered in Stockholm last week for World Water Week to discuss the future of our most precious natural resource, we are soberly reminded that for millions of people around the world, water safety is compromised because of poor sanitation and hygiene, which are the cause of numerous infections and waterborne illnesses,” he writes. “With the support of a new grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, East Meets West is pioneering a new approach to behavior change — one that we believe can help transform the sanitation and hygiene practices of those living in the most disadvantaged communities in Vietnam and Cambodia,” he continues, and details the community-based approach (9/4).
“Cholera vaccine gives indirect protection to unvaccinated people in communities where a substantial fraction of the population gets the vaccine,” according to a study from the island of Zanzibar in East Africa, published in the Lancet on Tuesday, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. “The effect is called ‘herd immunity,'” the blog notes. According to “Shots,” “half the people in six rural and urban areas received two doses of oral cholera vaccine,” and “[f]or those who got it, the vaccine was 79 percent protective against the disease” while “their neighbors who didn’t get vaccinated had almost as much protection.”
“Heavy rainfall is accelerating the spread of cholera in Sierra Leone and Guinea, where existing health risks such as poor hygiene practices, unsafe water sources and improper waste management are believed to have triggered the disease which has killed 327 people and infected more than 17,400 in both countries since February,” IRIN reports. “Prevalence is high in the congested slum areas in the capitals of Guinea and Sierra Leone, which have few clean toilets, and most people defecate in the open, often dangerously close to open wells, which are the source of water for most residents,” the news service writes (8/31). “Sierra Leone has been hit by its worst outbreak of the water-borne disease in nearly 15 years and cases are expected to peak at around 32,000 in September, the west African nation’s rainiest month, according to the World Health Organization,” Agence France-Presse notes, adding, “Neighboring Guinea has also been hard hit with 104 deaths and some 5,000 cases” (9/3).
“Almost two years after the deadly disease first appeared in Haiti in the aftermath of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, the story of cholera is one of both success and failure,” columnist Catherine Porter writes in a Toronto Star opinion piece. She says though progress has been made in bringing down the death rate from cholera, educating the population on prevention, and getting people with the disease into treatment more quickly, aid agencies’ funding has “dried up and most have ended their cholera programs.” She continues, “In most instances, the Haitian government has not picked up the work that had been done by departing aid agencies. … For its part, the Haitian government has focused on surveillance and prevention — plastering the city with posters about hand-washing and disinfecting water.”
Sudanese Refugee Camps See Improvement In Water, Food Provisions, But Concerns Remain Over Disease Threats, Overcrowding
“Aid agencies say water and food provision has improved in four camps housing more than 105,000 refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile State, but flooding, disease and an influx of additional refugees pose new threats,” IRIN reports, noting, “Sudan’s government forces and rebels have been fighting in Blue Nile State since September 2011, sending refugees south.” U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Emergency Health Coordinator Pilar Bauza “says refugees have suffered respiratory and diarrheal diseases, malaria and malnutrition from poor living conditions and nutrition,” the news service writes. “Health education campaigns, an increase in water provision from 10 to 13 liters per day, and a drop in malnutrition from 40 to 33 percent have improved the health of the refugees, but more needs to be done,” according to IRIN.