Cholera outbreak in Haiti spreads, claims lives

Still recovering from a major earthquake, Haiti must now deal with another disaster, an outbreak of cholera. Cholera is a species of Vibrio bacteria and produces a deadly toxin. This specific toxin kills 60 percent of those who attain the disease and aren’t treated.At least 135 people have died from the suspected outbreak. Aid groups are rushing in medicine to battle Haiti’s deadliest health problem since its earthquake.

The outbreak in the Artibonite region confirmed fears of sanitation for homeless survivors since the rural area began hosting thousands of quake refugees.

Haiti and like areas are more prone to the bacteria because of the living conditions. Unfortunately, cholera spreads to areas with untreated sewage, contaminated water and people living closely. On top of being easily spread to the ill or malnourished.

With more than 1,000 infected people, St. Nicholas hospital was filled with dehydrated patients lie on blankets in a parking lot with IVs in their arms while waiting for treatment.

“What we know is that people have diarrhea, and they are vomiting, and (they) can go quickly if they are not seen in time,” Catherine Huck, deputy country director for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said. Doctors are still waiting to pinpoint the disease.

This deadly bacterium doesn’t invade the intestine. But the toxin causes mass amounts or pumping out of saltwater intestine while interfering with the absorption of sugar, according to foxnews.com.

This almost immediate effect is what causes diarrhea in which causes someone to lose gallons of fluid and electrolytes within a day. Due to this loss of fluid, severe dehydration and low blood pressure occur.

The loss of potassium may then lead to cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death.
Replacement of fluids and addition on lost electrolytes is needed in order to cure the patient. Oral solutions that contain glucose can assist in defeating the dehydration in case sterile intravenous fluids are obtainable. Once treated, mortality from cholera is decreases by ten times.

“The concern is that it could go from one place to another place, and it could affect more people or move from one region to another one,” Claude Surena, president of the Haitian Medical Association, said.

A cholera outbreak hasn’t been reported in Haiti for decades. “Haitian officials, including President Rene Preval, have been pointing to the lack of severe disease outbreaks as a hard-to-see success of the quake response,” according to thestar.com.

“The sick come from across the Artibonite Valley, a starkly desolate region of rice fields and deforested mountains. The area did not experience significant damage in the Jan. 12 quake but has absorbed thousands of refugees from the devastated capital 45 miles (70 kilometres) south of St. Marc.”

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince released an advisory insisting people to only drink bottle or boiled water and eat only fully cooked foods.