In a two-part series, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog summarizes the presentations of a panel of experts at the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s (IDSA) 49th Annual Meeting in Boston Sunday, who examined the origins of and responses to the cholera epidemic in Haiti. The first part examines…
NPR’s Tell Me More host Michel Martin on Monday spoke with Christine Ivers of Partners In Health (PIH) in Haiti and journalist Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald about the ongoing cholera outbreak in Haiti. The guests discuss the origins of the epidemic, ongoing public education campaigns, and PIH’s plans to rollout a cholera vaccine (10/24).
“Western and central Africa are facing one of the biggest cholera epidemics in their history, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said last month, in reporting that more than 85,000 cases of cholera have been registered since the beginning of the year, with nearly 2,500 deaths,” according to Le Monde/Guardian. The newspaper writes, “UNICEF has identified three main cholera epidemic outbreaks in the Lake Chad basin, the West Congo basin and Lake Tanganyika,” and “[f]ive countries — Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (RDC) and Chad — account for 90 percent of the reported cases and fatalities.”
“With almost 17,000 cases reported in the latest nationwide cholera outbreak, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) must rethink its preparedness strategy to curb future outbreaks, health experts told IRIN,” the news service reports. “According to Kossi Ayigan of the WHO, the health cluster coordinator, the emergency response phase of the current cholera outbreak is drawing to a close and should be followed by firm action on proper sanitation and provision of safe drinking water by the government and its development partners,” according to IRIN.
The WHO on Friday “said the number of cholera cases in Haiti is expected to reach 500,000 by the end of the year” if current trends continue, Agence France-Presse reports. As of October, the agency estimated 470,000 cases of the disease and 6,600 cholera deaths had occurred since the outbreak began in 2010, the news service notes. “The number of new cholera cases in Haiti halved in August, but the rainy season is once again worsening the situation, the WHO warned,” AFP writes (10/22).
Water Shortages Lead To Cholera Threat In Harare, Government Says Measures In Place To Contain Outbreak
Radio VOP reports on water shortages in the high-density suburbs of the Zimbabwean capital of Harare, writing that some “have gone for a week without water raising fears of a cholera outbreak and bringing back fresh memories of the 4,000 people across the country killed in a cholera disaster in 2008” (10/21). But Health and Child Welfare Ministry officials in Zimbabwe “say the government has successfully curbed over 1,000 cases of cholera recorded during the first half of this year, while indicating that measures have been put in place to contain another outbreak of the disease,” the Zimbabwean reports.
Working in conjunction with the Haitian Ministry of Health and the Haitian aid group GHESKIO, Boston-based Partners In Health (PIH) will begin an immunization campaign in January aimed at providing two doses of the oral cholera vaccine Shanchol “to 100,000 Haitians living in two vulnerable communities: a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, where potable water and latrines are luxuries, and to an isolated rural village in the lower Artibonite Valley region,” the Miami Herald reports.
Paul Farmer, a founder of Partners in Health (PIH) and U.N. deputy special envoy to Haiti, in an interview with the Associated Press/Washington Post “said cholera has sickened more than 450,000 people in a nation of 10 million, or nearly five percent of the population, and killed more than 6,000,” giving the Caribbean nation “the highest rate of cholera in the world a mere year after the disease first arrived” (10/18).
“More than 85,000 cases of cholera in West and Central Africa are making this one of the region’s most severe epidemics in recent memory,” VOA News reports. “Grant Leaity, UNICEF’s chief of emergency operations for West and Central Africa, says the epidemic is due, in part, to a greater movement of people across the region,” VOA writes, noting, “Three simultaneous cross-border outbreaks are affecting people in two dozen countries along the coast from Guinea, and in the Lake Chad basin to the West Congo basin and around Lake Tanganyika.”
“Cholera cases have risen in Haiti, but the number dying from the disease is down, according to researchers from the [CDC],” CNN’s health blog â€œThe Chartâ€ reports. Robert Tauxe, researcher and deputy director at CDC said, “The number of deaths was initially way too high. But within a few weeks of the outbreak, we trained teams to treat the disease and increased access to supplies,” according to the blog. The new CDC report “lay[s] out the lessons learned since cholera emerged in Haiti and what needs to be done to sustain the progress that has been made to treat the disease and prevent deaths,” the blog notes, adding, “The most beneficial lessons may seem quite simple” and include training more health workers, educating citizens and improving sanitation systems (Dellorto, 10/13).