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Nepalese soldiers at the UN's peacekeeping camp in Haiti: locals suspect the cholera epidemic was brought to the country by Nepalese soldiers, with the local strain similar to those found in Asia. Ramon Espinosa/AP

Haiti on alert as cholera continues to spread

442 people have now been declared dead and 6,742 hospitalised as the pandemic reaches new areas.

AUTHORITIES IN HAITI fear the onset of a full cholera pandemic as the outbreak of the disease continues to spread to new areas of the stricken island.

The presence of the virus in areas of the island previously untouched by the outbreak has killed 105 people since Saturday, while almost 2,000 people have been hospitalised since the weekend.

The overall death toll from the epidemic has now reached 442, with the total number of people in hospital reaching 6,742.

CNN reports that local health authorities are concerned the health situation may worsen with Tropical Storm Tomas currently hovering close to the country, expected to make land tomorrow.

In the meantime, four of the six cholera treatment centres in the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, are now fully operational; another 14 treatment facilities will be set up once the tropical storm has cleared the area.

Many of the 1.2 million refugees still living in slums since the country was devastated by an earthquake on January 25 would face a grave threat if the virus was to spread to the tented villages in which most still live.

International aid group Save the Children last week said that 25,000 new mothers and their babies in and around the capital were at risk if the virus reaches the camps.

The BBC World Service, meanwhile, reports that locals have begun to lay the blame for the outbreak at the feet of Nepalese peacekeepers working in the region, after American scientists identified the local strain to be similar to those found in South Asia.

The country has seen angry protests against the peacekeepers, who are present on United Nations duty, as a result.