November 12, 2010

Haiti Cholera Death Toll Rises As UN Seeks Aid

The cholera outbreak in Haiti has now killed an estimated 800 people, leading health officials to appeal for millions of dollars in aid to help deal with the nation's growing epidemic.

"As of November 8, we had about 640 deaths. Today we are at 800," Ezra Barzilay, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in a conference call from Haiti to the participants of a medical conference in Mississippi. Reuters reports that Barzilay also said the situation was growing "more dire every day" as overrun hospitals were being forced to select which of the growing number of patients would receive treatment.

Reuters also cited statistics from Haiti's health ministry that show 724 confirmed deaths and over 11,000 registered hospitalizations through November 9. As a result, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs is seeking more than $163 million to aid with health care efforts in the country.

"We hope we can get this otherwise all our efforts will be overrun by the epidemic," Byrs said, according to an AFP report Friday. She added that the UN currently anticipates "up to 200,000 people to show symptoms of cholera ranging from cases of mild diarrhea to the most severe dehydration" over the next six months, and that Haiti was in urgent need of medical staff and supplies to combat the disease, which had been found in six of the nation's ten provinces.

The Haitian people, many of whom are still recovering from January earthquakes, have not experienced a cholera outbreak in more than 50 years, according to AFP. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that nearby nations, including the Dominican Republic and the United States, should not be overly concerned about the disease spreading across their borders because "the risk of widespread transmission was low."

"Good sanitation which includes plumbing, separation of fecal wastes and similar measures, and access to safe drinking water in the United States would work against widespread transmission," CDC spokesman David Daigle told Reuters on Thursday. Likewise, on its website, the Florida Department of Health told the news agency that cholera "does not spread easily in developed countries such as the U.S." but added that they wanted to ensure that "we do not miss any high-risk situations."


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