November 2, 2010

CDC Matches Haitian Cholera Outbreak To South Asia Strain

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Monday that a cholera outbreak which has killed over 300 people in Haiti matches strains found in South Asia.

The CDC said the Haitian cholera patients were all affected with the same strain.

Dr. Christopher Braden, a CDC epidemiologist, told The New York Times that researchers identified the strain by analyzing DNA patterns that can be compared with those from other regions of the world.

Haiti's health minister said the outbreak most likely originated from outside of the country.

The U.N. is investigating the allegations that Nepalese peacekeepers caused the epidemic.  Some say that a U.N. base built on a tributary to the Artibonite River where the peacemakers lived is the source.

However, Health Minister Dr. Alex Larsen said it was unlikely that the source of the cholera outbreak would ever be determined.

"Although these results indicate that the strain is non-Haitian, cholera strains may move between different areas due to global travel and trade," he said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Larsen said contaminated food or water, or an infected person probably transmitted the strain.

The Nepalese camp became the object of local suspicion because cholera is very rare in Haiti but endemic in Nepal.

Last week, the U.N. said that samples taken from the peacekeepers' camp and adjacent waters were found to be negative, but a spokesman for the agency said it was looking into the situation.

The U.S. federal health agency said that cholera does not normally spread widely within a country if drinking water and sewage treatment are adequate.

Haiti could be vulnerable to cholera because od the camps and slums that were left behind after January's devastating earthquake.

About 1.3 million survivors of the earthquake are living in tent camps in and around the capital.

Health experts believe the outbreak will soon lessen but the disease will eventually join malaria and tuberculosis in becoming endemic in Haiti.


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