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Thread: Haiti cholera spreading faster than predicted: U.N.

  1. #1
    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default Haiti cholera spreading faster than predicted: U.N.

    Reuters) - Haiti's deadly cholera epidemic is spreading faster than originally estimated and is likely to result in hundreds of thousands of cases and last up to a year, a senior U.N. official said on Tuesday.

    Since the disease first appeared in mid-October it has killed 1,344 people as of Friday in the poverty-stricken and earthquake-ravaged Caribbean nation.

    But U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Haiti Nigel Fisher said the real death toll might be "closer to two thousand than one" because of lack of data from remote areas, and the number of cases 60,000-70,000 instead of the official figure of around 50,000.

    Addressing a U.N. news conference by video link from Haiti, Fisher said experts from the World Health Organization were now revising their estimate that the diarrheal disease, spread by poor sanitation, would cause 200,000 cases within six months.

    "They are now revising that to 200,000 in closer to a three-month period. So this epidemic is moving faster," he said, adding that it was now present in all 10 of Haiti's provinces. "It's going to spread."

    "The medical specialists all say that this cholera epidemic will continue through months and maybe a year at least, that we will see literally hundreds of thousands of cases," Fisher said.

    It was "almost impossible to stop the spread of these cases because it is so contagious, and those who carry the cholera bacterium often take days to show it, and in that (time) they may move anywhere," he added.

    Fisher said U.N. and other aid workers needed to "significantly ratchet up" their response, including going through faith groups to distribute chlorine tablets to purify water, and increasing the number of treatment centers.

    But he said opening new treatment centers was running into resistance from local authorities because of people's fears of having them in their neighborhoods.

    The anti-cholera campaign has been complicated by unconfirmed reports that U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal brought the disease to Haiti, where it had been absent for 100 years.

    At least two people were killed and dozens were injured in clashes last week between U.N. troops and protesters. The United Nations has blamed the trouble on political agitators looking to inflame tensions ahead of elections next Sunday.

    Edmond Mulet, head of the U.N. MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission in Haiti, told the news conference there was still "no scientific evidence" the epidemic had come from the Nepalese and that all tests carried out had proved negative. But experts continued to investigate, he said.

    Haiti cholera spreading faster than predicted: U.N. | Reuters
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    A lady in Sarasota is the first American to have been diagnosed. I'm sure many many will die.
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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Haiti cholera likely from UN troops, expert says

    Strong evidence links peacekeepers from Nepal to disease outbreak


    PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A contingent of U.N. peacekeepers is the likely source of a cholera outbreak in Haiti that has killed at least 2,000 people, a French scientist said in a report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

    Epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux concluded that the cholera originated in a tributary of Haiti's Artibonite river, next to a U.N. base outside the town of Mirebalais. He was sent by the French government to assist Haitian health officials in determining the source of the outbreak, a French Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday.

    "No other hypothesis could be found to explain the outbreak of a cholera epidemic in this village ... not affected by the earthquake earlier this year and located dozens of kilometers from the coast and (tent) camps," he wrote in a report that has not been publicly released.

    The report also calls for a further investigation of the outbreak, improved medical surveillance and sanitation procedures for U.N. peacekeeping troops and better support for Haitian health authorities.

    The AP obtained a copy of the report from an official who released it on condition of anonymity. Piarroux confirmed he had authored the report but declined in an e-mail interview to discuss his findings. Copies were sent to U.N. and Haitian officials, the foreign ministry confirmed.


    Piarroux could not prove there was cholera inside the base or among the soldiers, a point the U.N. has repeatedly used to deny its soldiers brought the disease to Haiti or that its sanitation procedures were responsible for releasing it into the environment. He writes that military doctors said there were no instances of cholera within the unit.



    But he also hinted strongly at a cover-up.

    "It can not be ruled out that steps have been taken to remove the suspected fecal matter and to erase the traces of an epidemic of cholera among the soldiers," he wrote.

    The report also notes that septic tanks and pipes that would have helped to confirm sanitation problems and the presence of the bacteria were no longer at the base when he visited.

    Nepalese troops earlier confirmed they had replaced a leaking pipe, which contained a foul-smelling runoff that the U.N. denies was human waste, between two visits by an AP reporter in October. The AP also found the local contractor dumped waste into overflowing pools dangerously close to a hillside that drains into the river.

    Piarroux's is the first scientific report linking the base to the epidemic, though many other epidemiologists and public health experts have said for weeks that the soldiers are the most likely source of the infection.

    Other scientists and experts say it is possible that ocean currents or other climate-related events carried the bacteria to Haiti. Further studies on bacterial samples that could address those questions are ongoing.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed in October that the strain of cholera bacteria in Haiti matched one from South Asia, a region that includes Nepal, but said it had no further information about the cause of the outbreak at the time.

    Many Haitians have long suspected the Nepalese base was the source of the disease, and anger at the troops sparked a week of riots in which U.N. soldiers were injured and several Haitians were killed.

    The report says that the first cases of the disease were from the village of Meille, where the base is located. The first confirmed case, a 20-year-old man from the village, developed symptoms on Oct. 14 and was found by Cuban doctors at a hospital in nearby Mirebalais.

    Haitian investigators "indicated that the first patients were obtaining drinking water from a tributary of the Artibonite River flowing just below the (U.N.) base," he said.

    It notes that the rotation of soldiers began arriving days before those first cases from Nepal, where there were cholera outbreaks over the summer.


    It goes on to describe how the disease flowed into the Aribonite River before "exploding" in the delta where the river meets the sea. Hundreds of cases were reported within days, before the outbreak spiraled out of control to infect the entire county.


    Until this outbreak there had not been a diagnosed case of cholera in Haiti as far back as records go in the mid-20th Century, Claire-Lise Chaignat, head of the global task force on cholera control at the World Health Organization, said in October. There were suspected cases a century before, but experts say it would have likely been a different strain than the ongoing El Tor pandemic.

    The disease was totally unknown to today's Haitians, who had developed no immunity against it and had no information on how to fight it until aid workers mobilized after the outbreak. Terror over its fast-killing power has triggered attacks on cholera treatment centers and a witch-hunt in rural Haiti. At least 12 people were killed on accusations they used magic to spread the disease.

    For the first critical month of the outbreak, the United Nations, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and others said that an investigation into how the disease arrived in Haiti was not necessary and could in fact be harmful. Those who asked questions about it were accused of playing "the blame game."

    It was not until AP reports of sanitation problems at the base and calls by experts including Paul Farmer, a physician and U.N. official, for a thorough investigation that the matter was seriously discussed in public.

    Farmer said there were compelling public health reasons to find the source of the infection, including finding information to help prevent its further spread, and that avoiding the questions was a matter of politics.

    The U.N. mission confirmed to AP last month that a French epidemiologist had met with met with U.N. peacekeeping mission chief Edmond Mulet in Port-au-Prince to discuss his findings. At the time the mission denied that he had implicated the peacekeepers, but acknowledged that it was now taking the allegations about its base more seriously than when rumors first arose.

    On Tuesday the mission said the report was still not definitive.
    "We have neither accepted nor dismissed his findings, as it's one report among others," U.N. mission spokesman Vincenzo Pugliese said. "The Nepalese contingent in Mirebalais is just one piece of the cholera puzzle, since there is no conclusive evidence at this point that the Nepalese camp was or was not the source of the epidemic."

    In roughly six weeks the disease has spread to every region of the country and sickened nearly 100,000 people. The U.N. says the death toll could be twice the official count and that up to 650,000 people in Haiti could get cholera over the next six months.

    Haiti cholera likely from UN troops, expert says - Health - Infectious diseases - msnbc.com
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    Default 45 people lynched amid Haiti cholera fears: officials

    PORT-AU-PRINCE Angry Haitian mobs have lynched at least 45 people in recent weeks, accusing them of spreading a cholera outbreak that has killed over 2,500 people across the country, officials said Wednesday.

    The number included at least 14 suspected sorcerers previously known to have been lynched in the far southwestern region of Grand'Anse as local people feared they were spreading cholera with a magical substance. The area has been largely spared by the outbreak.

    "We have counted 40 people dead in Grand'Anse department alone, where people are attacking natural healers they accuse of cholera-linked witchcraft," said communications ministry official Moise Fritz Evens.

    Five other people were killed in similar circumstances elsewhere in the country.

    "The victims -- most of them voodoo priests -- were stoned or hacked with machetes before being burned in the street," added the official, who was presenting the results of an investigation conducted in Grand'Anse earlier this month.

    Communications minister Marie-Laurence Lassegue said "voodoo practitioners have nothing to do with the cholera epidemic. We must press for an awareness campaign about the disease in the communities."

    Official figures earlier showed the water-borne bacterial infection has claimed 2,591 lives so far in the nation's first cholera outbreak in more than a century. The disease first appeared in mid-October in the north.

    Health ministry figures as of December 17 showed 121,518 people had been treated for the water-borne bacterial infection, including 63,711 who received hospital treatment.

    And in a sign there is no end in sight for the disease that has become a thorn in the side of the already deeply troubled nation, about 50 people died on each of the last five days recorded. At the outbreak's peak in November, there were daily death tolls of 60, 70 and even 80 and above.

    The cholera outbreak led to deadly anti-UN riots last month as a desperate populace turned its anger on peacekeepers from Nepal accused of bringing the disease into the country.

    The first lynching cases date back to late last month, when mobs hacked or stoned to death their victims.

    About half of Haiti's population is believed to practice the voodoo religion in some form, though many are thought to also follow other religious beliefs at the same time. Sorcery and spiritual magic have been incorporated into some of the beliefs.

    Voodoo evolved out of the beliefs that slaves from West Africa brought with them to Haiti. It is now deeply rooted in Haitian culture.
    Western evangelical Christian movements however are also making inroads in Haiti, and religious tensions have risen in the wake of January's catastrophic earthquake that killed 250,000 people and left more than one million homeless.

    AFP: 45 people lynched amid Haiti cholera fears: officials
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