Death In The Time Of Cholera

(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Haiti, ravaged for centuries and suffering long before its enormous, destructive earthquake, now braces for a huge cholera epidemic.  The cholera epidemic on Saturday had already killed more than 200 and there are more than 2600 reported cases.  Today the news is still bad.  The NY Times reports:

Diarrhea, while a common ailment here, is a symptom of cholera. And anxiety has been growing fiercely that the cholera epidemic, which began last week in the northwest of Haiti, will soon strike the earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.

“It travels with the speed of lightning, I’ve heard, and it can kill a person in four hours,” said Jean Michel Maximilien, a camp leader. “So of course we are all on edge.”

For now, the cholera outbreak, with more than 250 deaths and more than 3,100 confirmed cases, has been contained to the central rural regions around the Artibonite River, 60 miles north of the capital. But Port-au-Prince is tensely preparing for its arrival in the densely populated slums and tent camps here, with treatment centers being established, soap and water purification tablets being distributed and public safety announcements stressing hygiene. …

Since the January earthquake, this devastated country has been bracing for a secondary disaster – a hurricane, an eruption of violence, an outbreak of disease. But nobody anticipated that cholera would make its first appearance in 50 years. It was “the one thing we thought we were relatively safe on,” said Imogen Wall, spokeswoman for the United Nations humanitarian coordination office.

Because so many in Haiti teeter on the brink, and because a cholera epidemic in Port au Prince and the rest of that beleaguered nation can be so horrible, this is a good time to make a small donation to Doctors Without Borders, who are already on the scene and providing treatment.

And then there’s Philip Roth’s most recent book, Nemesis, that explores a polio epidemic in Newark, New Jersey in 1944.  I finished reading it last night; I had read the reviews when it came out earlier this month.  If like me you know Newark, and particularly the Weequahic area, the book brings back memories of the 50’s and early ’60’s.  And Bucky, the main character, is as familiar to you as any other kid you played stickball with.  If you don’t know that particular Newark, maybe you don’t quite get the book in the same way.

The epidemic in Newark, like the threatening one in Haiti, has its many mysteries.  Nobody knows exactly how it is spread.  Nobody knows what to do to stop it.  Flight seems a good idea, until the disease and death arrive anyway.  There is seemingly no escape.  There is no way to predict who will become ill and who will be untouched and who will die.  And in Haiti the options, because of the grinding poverty are far fewer.  Treatment will remain mostly unavailable. There will be many more fatalities even if the outbreak can be isolated in Antibonite.  What a horror.

My heart goes out to Haiti.  And to those who are there now.  May the epidemic be contained.  May they all be well.

Please make a donation to Doctors Without Borders.  This can help.


simulposted at The Dream Antilles and dailyKos and docuDharma



  1. Borders.

    There are so many of us.  Even a few dollars can mount up to be substantial aid.

    Thanks for reading.

  2. The latest reports that we have been getting indicate that there are now several cases in Port au Prince and that those patients are being treated with oral rehydration solution (ORS) and antibiotics and are isolated from the general patient population to minimize the spread.

    This is the latest press release from MSF:

    MSF teams treating cholera patients in Saint-Marc, Artibonite region, Haiti

    Assessment teams sent to Mirebalais and Petit Riviere.

    Following the confirmation of a cholera outbreak in the Artibonite region of Haiti, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical teams are treating patients with symptoms of cholera in the city of Saint Marc.

    “There are significant numbers of patients in St. Nicholas Hospital in St. Marc, which does not have the capacity to handle a cholera emergency,” said Federica Nogarotto, MSF emergency coordinator in St. Marc.  “The most important thing is to isolate the cholera patients there from the rest of the patients, in order to best treat those people who are infected and to prevent further spread of the disease. This will also enable the hospital to run as normally as possible.  We are setting up a separate, isolated cholera treatment center now.”

    MSF has 20 staff, including doctors, nurses, logistical specialists, supporting the St. Nicholas Hospital. They are isolating the sick from the rest of patients already admitted to the hospital before the outbreak.

    Patients are given an oral rehydration solution (ORS) to replace fluids lost from diarrhea and vomiting symptoms of a cholera infection. Patients too sick to drink the ORS are given infusions intravenously.

    An MSF emergency team has assessed the situation in Mirebalais and is in contact with the local health authorities on any additional staff and supplies required to treat patients. A seven-person team has been dispatched to Petit Riviere. These teams will assess medical facilities and rural areas. A cargo plane with 100 metric tons of medical, water and sanitation supplies is leaving this weekend to provide additional supplies to the MSF teams on the ground.

    Isolating suspected cases, hygiene promotion through education and provision of soap, and distribution of safe drinking water are key elements to prevent further transmission of cholera. Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by bacteria carried in human feces and can be transmitted by water, some foodstuffs and, more rarely, from person to person. The main symptoms are watery diarrhea and vomiting, which lead to severe dehydration and rapid death if not treated promptly.

  3. bring made in keeping cholera from spreading and treatment of the victims from MSF Field News and

    MSf Tweets:

    We’re seeing fewer severe cases of #cholera in #Haiti, but continuing to prepare for the possibility that it could spread.

    At present, we can treat #cholera at 8 of our facilities in the #Artibonite region and in & around #PaP #Haiti

    A #cholera treatment center is being built on a football field near St. Nicholas Hospital; 400 beds should be ready by tmrw. #Haiti

    2 additional #cholera treatment center are being built in #PaP, another in #Leogane. #Haiti #cholera

    Soon we will have 800 beds available for the treatment of #cholera patients, should the outbreak spread. #Haiti

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