“Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, is now the center of a cholera epidemic after the first confirmed case surfaced in the north of the country in February,” IRIN reports, noting, “Since January, Sierra Leone has seen 4,249 cases of cholera and 76 people have died from the waterborne disease” (7/25). In related news, “[c]onflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where M23 rebels and other armed groups are fighting government forces, is dangerously undermining efforts to combat a cholera outbreak” in the country, IRIN writes in a separate article. According to the news service, “There has been ‘a sharp increase in the number of cholera cases in the armed conflict area of North Kivu’ Province, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement” (7/25).
“U.S. legislators are appealing to the United Nations to take a greater role in addressing Haiti’s cholera outbreak, now in its third year and which has left thousands dead,” Inter Press Service reports. “In a letter addressed to U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice, 104 U.S. members of Congress urged Rice to help step up U.N. concern over the outbreak,” the news service writes. “‘It is imperative for the U.N. to now act decisively to control the cholera epidemic,’ Representative John Conyers, Jr. [D-Mich.] wrote,” adding, “A failure to act will not only lead to countless more deaths … [but] will pose a permanent public health threat,” IPS notes (Freedman, 7/20).
NPR’s “Shots” blog reports on the results of a “high-visibility pilot project to vaccinate 100,000 Haitians against cholera.” The blog writes, “Almost 90 percent of the target population — half in Port-au-Prince and the other half in a remote rural area — got fully protected against cholera, meaning they got two doses of the oral vaccine,” adding, “The sponsors of the project — the nonprofit medical groups GHESKIO in Port-au-Prince and Partners in Health in rural Haiti — presented the results on Monday at a session with the country’s health minister, Dr. Florence Guillaume.”
“Cuba’s health ministry on Saturday reported 158 cases of cholera, nearly three times as many as previously disclosed, but said there were no new deaths and the outbreak appears to have been contained and on the wane,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (7/14). In a statement, the health ministry “denied there had been a ‘spread’ of cholera on the Communist-ruled island, blaming the incidents outside the affected town of Manzanillo on ‘isolated cases,’ that would be ‘treated and studied promptly,'” Agence France-Presse writes. “Health officials have said they believe heavy rains and hot temperatures contributed to the outbreak,” the news agency notes (7/15).
UNICEF and the WHO “are warning of an alarming upsurge in cholera across West Africa’s Sahel region, the area at the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert running from Mauritania to Chad,” VOA News reports (Schlein, 7/10). “So far in 2012, cholera has killed nearly 700 people in West and Central Africa and more than 29,000 cases were reported,” according to a UNICEF press release (7/10). “Both UNICEF and WHO say they are critically short of funds to do what is needed to contain the outbreak,” but “[t]hey say action must be taken now before the number of cholera cases explodes,” VOA writes (7/10). IRIN examines efforts to curb the spread of cholera in Guinea, with the administration of a vaccine, and Sierra Leone (7/10).
A cholera outbreak in eastern Cuba has killed three elderly people and sickened more than 50 others, “130 years after the last known case of the disease was reported on the island,” Agence France-Presse reports (7/4). In a statement, the Cuban government said the outbreak was caused by contaminated well water caused by heavy rains and high temperatures and that the outbreak is now slowing, according to Reuters (Franks, 7/3). “Health officials said they had ‘all the necessary resources to provide adequate attention to patients’ and that the situation was ‘under control,'” BBC News reports (Rainsford, 7/3).
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.”
“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).
“As the world’s worst outbreak of cholera continues to ravage Haiti, international donors have averted their gaze,” a Washington Post editorial writes. The editorial notes that a “pilot project to vaccinate Haitians against the disease … reached only one percent of the population, with no immediate prospect of expansion,” and “[o]f the 100 or so cholera treatment centers that sprang up around the country after the disease was detected 19 months ago, fewer than a third remain.” The solution to the epidemic is “equally well known and costly,” the editorial states, adding, “Haiti needs modern water and sanitation infrastructure, an undertaking that might cost $1 billion. But while donors tend to respond generously to emergencies, such as the earthquake that devastated Haiti in early 2010, they lose interest in long-term fixes of the sort that would deal decisively with cholera.”
“U.N. Development Goals for better drinking water have already been reached, but a closer look shows that the measures fail to truly account for the lack of access to safe water,” Scientific American reports in a feature story. “[J]ust because water is pouring out of a spigot does not mean that it is safe to drink,” the article states, adding, “In poorer areas, where infrastructure and sanitation are often much worse, even sources of water that have been ‘improved’ are frequently at risk for contamination by human and animal feces, according to recent analyses.” The magazine details a number of studies on the issue and concludes, “[W]hether there are 800 million or 1.8 billion people who lack safe water, the scourge of preventable deadly diarrheal and other waterborne diseases will continue to plague too many” (Harmon, 5/21).