Aid group in Haiti sees drop in cholera cases
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- The Haitian capital has seen a dramatic drop in the number of cholera cases as the Caribbean nation leaves the annual rainy season, the director of an international aid group said Friday.
Despite the decline, the Haitian government and health organizations must continue focusing efforts on stemming the outbreak as the height of the hurricane season nears, said Thierry Goffeau, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders in Haiti.
Goffeau said by telephone that authorities should not "go on standby because the numbers are going down" and that "it's important for the U.N., the international donors to increase their support."
Goffeau said his humanitarian health group saw the number of weekly cholera cases in Port-au-Prince jump from 708 in late April to 1,354 in late May. Last week, the organization treated 528 people in the capital.
This drop was mirrored at a Doctors Without Border treatment center in Port-au-Prince's densely populated neighborhood of Drouillard. A 75-bed facility was filled for four weeks until the end of May, but now has about 10 patients.
Haiti saw a spike in the number of cholera cases in the country as this year's annual rainy season began early in March with nightly showers drenching the capital. Haitian health officials were recording 77 new cases a day throughout the country in early March.
Humanitarian health groups such as Doctors Without Borders fear a second spike in the number of cholera cases in Haiti this year, in August or September, as the country heads into the peak of the hurricane season.
Cholera, a waterborne disease readily spread because of the capital's crumbling infrastructure and poor sanitation, is caused by a bacteria found in contaminated water or food. It can kill people within hours through dehydration, but is easily treatable if caught in time.
Despite the decline in cases, cholera continues to sicken people in Haiti. Health officials say it has killed more than 7,200 people and sickened another 555,000 in the country.
The disease was likely introduced by a U.N. peacekeeping unit from Nepal, where the disease is endemic, several months after a devastating January 2010 earthquake.