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Haiti on alert as cholera hits the capital

The death toll reaches 544 as authorities fear that the infection in Port-au-Prince could spread to refugee camps.

A young cholera patient awaits treatment at a MSF facility in Port-au-Prince.
A young cholera patient awaits treatment at a MSF facility in Port-au-Prince.
Image: © Gregory Vandendaele, MSF

THE DEATH TOLL from the cholera epidemic on the stricken island of Haiti has reached 544, as the infection is confirmed in the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince.

The Guardian reports that local health authorities have confirmed that the disease has managed to breach containment efforts, with 100 further suspected cases also being tested among city residents on top of the 73 confirmed cases reported by the BBC.

It is now feared that the disease is on the brink of reaching the city’s tented slums, where over 1.2 million refugees from January’s earthquake remain resident.

Authorities suspect that tens of thousands of people have already been infected, with 8,138 confirmed cases to date.

It was first believed that the disease had actually reached the capital two weeks ago, when the virus was found present in three people who had travelled into the city from rural areas more affected by the epidemic. On that instance, however, the disease – thankfully – did not make it to the population-at-large.

The executive director of the country’s health minister, Gabriel Timothee, told Sky News that he feared many of the patient in hospital in Port-au-Prince had come from the Artibonite Valley, the agricultural area from where about 80% of the current confirmed cases originate.

Officials are further concerned that floods in the country caused by Tropical Storm Tomas at the weekend may further expedite the spread of the bacteria, which travels through dirty water supplies.

Xinhua reports that the Artibonite river, which is the main source of the bacteria, overflowed as a result of the floods – meaning the current death rate of 32 per day may soon rocket.

Haiti on alert as cholera hits the capital
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Gavan Reilly

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