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Haiti’s Cholera Outbreak Puts Pressure on Capital

07.16.2011, VOA Health Report, by .

An outbreak of cholera in Haiti continued to spread sickness and worry. Health officials worried that the capital could suffer a major outbreak of the disease. By the middle of November, most cases in Port-au-Prince were found in people who arrived in the city already sick. But health officials confirmed the first case in a boy who had not left the city for at least a year. And there were other suspected cases in the Haitian capital. Cholera causes diarrhea and vomiting. It robs the body of fluids. People can get cholera if they eat foods or drink liquids containing the bacteria that cause the infection. Cholera is not hard to treat. Basically, patients drink a solution of salt, sugar and water. The problem is that help is not always available quickly. If cholera is not treated, it can kill within hours, especially in people already in weakened conditions. The earthquake in January displaced large numbers of people. It forced them into crowded, dirty conditions in tent camps — in other words, the perfect environment for cholera.The outbreak in Haiti has already killed several hundred people. The country’s last major outbreak of the disease was more than one hundred years ago. Disease-control experts from the United States confirmed the first cases of cholera in Haiti on October twenty-first in the Artibonite area. The outbreak was mostly limited to that area until a powerful storm struck Haiti in November. Hurricane Tomas caused heavy rains and flooding and some deaths. The number of cholera cases had been dropping but then rose sharply after the storm. Medical workers in Haiti were trying to spread the message not to use river water without some form of purification. People were being urged to take steps like adding a small amount of bleach to the water or boiling it for at least a full minute.Workers were also struggling to provide clean bottled water and water purification tablets. People were being urged to wash their hands carefully with soap and purified water after using the toilet or changing a baby’s diaper. The same advice goes for washing hands before eating, and before and after preparing food. If no soap is available, then ash can be used instead. For VOA Special English, I’m Alex Villarreal.

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