Haiti cholera deaths rise sharply

Media caption,
Dr Jordan Tappero, team leader for the US Centers for Disease Control in Haiti, explained the situation in Port-au-Prince

The number of people known to have died from a cholera epidemic in Haiti has increased markedly.

Health officials say 105 more people have died since Saturday, bringing the total to 442.

They said there had been a 40% jump in the number of new cases.

Aid agencies fear the outbreak could worsen further, if heavy rains associated with Tropical Storm Tomas hit the island.

Doctors warned that torrential rainfall could flood sanitary installations and contaminate drinking water.

If it continues along its current path, forecasters expect Tomas to make landfall in Haiti on Friday.

South Asian strain

On Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control found that all the Haitian patients had the same strain of cholera, one that is most commonly found in South Asia.

The UN is investigating allegations that excrement from Nepalese peacekeepers caused the epidemic.

But Health Minister Dr Alex Larsen said it was unlikely the outbreak's origin would ever be known.

Haiti had not seen a cholera outbreak for about half a century, and initially many people were unsure of what steps to take to avoid the disease.

Doctors say poor sanitary conditions after January's earthquake made the country vulnerable to cholera, which is caused by bacteria transmitted through contaminated water or food.

Jocelyn Pierre-Louis of the Haitian Health Ministry says almost 2,000 people have been taken to hospital with cholera infections since Saturday.

The total number of cases now stands at 6,742, according to the authorities on the island.

Cholera causes diarrhoea and vomiting leading to severe dehydration, and can kill within 24 hours if left untreated. It is easily treated through rehydration and antibiotics.

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