Health Officials Pronounce Cholera's Spread In Haiti 'Less Lethal'

by Tanya Thomas on  December 3, 2010 at 11:20 AM General Health News   - G J E 4
The cholera epidemic gripping Haiti in the wake of national elections continues to spread throughout the country but is less lethal, the Pan American Health Organization said Wednesday.
 Health Officials Pronounce Cholera's Spread In Haiti 'Less Lethal'
Health Officials Pronounce Cholera's Spread In Haiti 'Less Lethal'

"We went from nine percent of cases dying in the early days to 2.3 percent now," said Donna Eberwine-Villagran, a spokeswoman for PAHO, a local branch of the World Health Organization.

"It's improving," she told AFP, adding however that the number of cases would continue to rise.

According to the latest official tally, 1,817 people have died from the disease in Haiti, which is still reeling from a devastating earthquake in January that killed over 250,000 people and left over a million homeless.

A total of 80,860 cases have been recorded for this highly contagious disease, with 36,207 hospitalizations.

Eberwine-Villagran warned that the official toll was an underestimation.

"There is no way to estimate the toll," she added. "Cholera can kill people within hours if it is not treated... The Haitians were never exposed to cholera before, so they didn't know what to do."

The PAHO has estimated cholera could see up to 400,000 cases over the next 12 months, half of them within three months alone.

Haiti's Health Ministry, the PAHO and the International Organization for Migration have evaluated 80 care centers in the country and found that 38 of them were suitable for cholera treatment centers or oral rehydration posts (ORPs).

"The plan is create 250 ORPs to provide first-line cholera treatment in camps, which were prioritized according to environmental risks and poor coverage by sanitation and health services," PAHO said.

Amid the epidemic, Haitians were also awaiting results of Sunday's national elections. An unexpected admission from the ruling INITE (UNITY) party that it may have lost has fueled a sense that a real political shift was imminent.

Election officials and MINUSTAH, the UN stabilization mission in Haiti, said preliminary results of the presidential and legislative elections will be announced on December 7. Final results are expected on December 20.

If none of the 18 presidential candidates garner more than 50 percent of the vote, a second round will take place on January 16.

Mirlande Manigat, the longtime opposition leader and former first lady who was ahead in polls, proclaimed "I will be president of Haiti."

"I am telling my voters, supporters of other parties and all Haitians that we are the children of a single country that is sick and needs help from us all. I am counting on you and you can count on me," she told reporters.

MINUSTAH, meanwhile, called for patience so that the process of verifying results can go forward smoothly. It also urged Haitians to be skeptical of non-official results.

Widespread fraud allegations following the polls have added to the climate of intimidation and fear that persists in Haiti, a Caribbean nation whose recent past is plagued by dictatorships and violent political upheaval.

Source: AFP

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