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350 dead as cholera outbreak reaches Haitian capital

Almost 350 people have now been declared dead after the virus was carried into the capital city – and possibly onto camps.

A mother comforts her crying daughter, who displays symptoms of cholera, at the hospital in Grande-Saline, Haiti.
A mother comforts her crying daughter, who displays symptoms of cholera, at the hospital in Grande-Saline, Haiti.
Image: Ramon Espinosa/AP

Updated 16.37

THE OUTBREAK of cholera in the stricken island of Haiti has reached the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, as the death toll from the virus approaches 350.

The initial outbreak – which had occurred in the north-west of the country, in an area relatively untouched by the January earthquake – was carried to the capital by five people who had not at the time developed the symptoms of the bug.

208 people have now been claimed by the epidemic, with over 2,650 more infected. 50 of the infected are inmates in the Mirebalais prison north of the capital, where three people have died.

More worryingly, however, the presence of the virus in the crowded capital – where over a million victims of January’s quake still live in makeshift camps – means that authorities must now face the prospect of a devastating epidemic sweeping through the refugee slums.

“This is a very mobile country,” Paul Namphy of Haiti’s national water agency told Sky News. ”It can spread like wildfire.”

As of about 4:30pm this afternoon the death count had stood at 347; six cases had broken out in Carrefour, a major suburb of the capital, while it was considered sadly inevitable that the virus would also spread to Leogane, the epicentre of January’s disaster.

Xinhua reports fears that the five people who brought the virus to Port-au-Prince from the main outbreak zone of Artibonite may have travelled through the city’s main bus-station, an already popular transport stop which has become even more critical since the quake.

If the fears prove true, the disease may already have made its way to other areas of the island – which ranks among the world’s most densely-populated nations.

The current outbreak is the first seen in Haiti for decades, and further compounds the misery of the island which lost 300,000 people in January’s 7.0-magnitude disaster.

The Haven Partnership, an Irish charity that was due to send a new group of volunteers to the island last Friday, had already postponed its trip last week as a result of the outbreak – and may now have to call off its mission.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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