Official: Cholera outbreak stabilizing in Haiti

Tuesday, October 26, 2010
A relative pushes a broken car carrying the coffin containing the remains of Tikont Dolamard, 36, who died of cholera in Dessalines, Haiti, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010. A spreading cholera outbreak in rural Haiti threatened to outpace aid groups as they stepped up efforts hoping to keep the disease from reaching the camps of earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince. Health officials said at least 250 people had died and there are over 3,000 sick. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- A cholera outbreak that has killed more than 250 people in rural Haiti is stabilizing, health officials said Monday, as aid groups and the government race to prevent it from spreading to the capital's squalid camps of earthquake survivors.

The outbreak was expected to continue spreading, but aid groups and the government said a drop in the death rate and the number of new cases suggested it could progress more gradually than feared.

"The situation is beginning to stabilize. Since yesterday we have registered only six new deaths," Health Ministry Director Gabriel Timothee said.

Officials said no cases have originated in Port-au-Prince, where authorities fear abysmal hygiene, poor sanitation and widespread poverty could rapidly spread the disease through the sprawling tent slums erected after the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Five patients were diagnosed with cholera in the capital over the weekend, but officials said they got sick outside the city.

As part of the effort to slow the spread of the disease, Timothee said the government has asked for garbage to be removed around the camps of homeless.

If efforts to keep cholera out of the camps fail, "The worst case would be that we have hundreds of thousands of people getting sick at the same time," said Claude Surena, president of the Haiti Medical Association. Cholera can cause vomiting and diarrhea so severe it can kill from dehydration in hours.

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