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Cholera Crisis Plagues Haiti After Hurricane Matthew

Oct 11, 2016 04:27 AM EDT
Year After Earthquake In Haiti, The Impoverished Country Continues To Struggle With Rebuilding
Hundreds are killed in Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, but death toll continues to rise as cholera outbreaks grip the impoverished nation.
(Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Haiti faces a surge in cholera cases after Hurricane Matthew devastated the country on Oct. 4.

Hundreds of people were reported to have been killed during the storm. But death toll continues to rise as more people are infected with cholera, a highly contagious bacterial infection commonly contracted in areas with unclean water and contaminated food.

When untreated, cholera may cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, which eventually lead to extreme dehydration. The illness could quickly escalate into outbreaks, and people who are not treated immediately could die within hours.

According to Haiti interim president Jocelerme Privert, 13 people have already died from cholera since Hurricane Matthew hit the country.

"A lot of effort has been made to avoid the spread of this epidemic," Privert said in a statement. "But the hurricane has accelerated it."

The most affected departments or regional administrative units are Sud and Grand-Anse, CNN reports. According to Rene Domersant, health ministry representative at Haiti's National Emergency Center, there are currently 128 confirmed cholera cases and about 160 suspected cases in Sud, Nipps and Grand-Anse departments in the south of the country.

The number of cholera patients admitted in the Port-a-Piment hospital had doubled since Sunday. The hospital was crammed with cholera patients, spilling out into hallways and courtyards.

"Ninety to 95 percent of these patients have cholera -- diarrhea, vomiting," Missole Antoine, medical director of the hospital, told The Washington Post. "If everyone keeps coming here, we'll all be contaminated. We need a new space as fast as possible."

Read: Carbon Dioxide Poisoning, Cholera and Other Risks to Surviving After the Hurricane

According to UNICEF, Haiti has one of the highest number of cholera cases in the world, recording about 10,000 cholera-related deaths since 2010 and more than 27,000 suspected cases reported in 2016. An estimated 1 of 3 of these suspected cases are children.

Hurricane Matthew left a trail of destruction in the country's southern peninsula, destroying crops, sweeping away livestock and damaging irrigation and fishing infrastructures. "These towns on the southwestern coast, it's near total destruction. Just about every building was knocked down, even concrete ones," Vince DeGennaro, a doctor based in Port-au-Prince, told CNN.

Haiti's official death toll from Hurricane Matthew has risen to 372, but because of the strict verification process for victims, the actual numbers could be higher. Grand-Anse, for instance, has reported a death toll of 475.

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