July 24, 2005

Havana on health alert after eight children die

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban health authorities urged Havana
residents on Sunday to take extra hygiene precautions as they
investigate the deaths of eight children from an unknown cause.

A government communique said that there had been an
increase in digestive and respiratory illnesses reported over
the last two weeks in the Cuban capital coinciding with power,
cooking gas and water problems, in part caused by Hurricane
Dennis, which passed a few miles east of Havana July 8.

The statement said children were particularly susceptible,
and in some cases high fever and other complications developed.

"In this context eight deaths among minors have occurred
which are being meticulously investigated," the communique,
broadcast during the government's nightly television newscast,

While children die at high rates in developing countries
from various diseases, such deaths are rare in Communist Cuba,
which takes pride in a relatively well-developed and free
health care system.