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Cholera in the Americas: A decreasing trend being seen

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Several months after the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Caribbean country of Haiti on Jan.12, 2014, a huge, tragic, ongoing cholera outbreak hit the country sickening more than 700,000 people to date.

However,yesterday, June 27, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) released the latest data of cholera from the region and some encouraging news was to be found: There is a decreasing trend in cholera cases and deaths in the regions most hard hit island of Hispaniola.

In Haiti, the numbers have dropped dramatically on a weekly basis as compared to the height of the outbreak in 2011 and 2012. To put it in perspective, in 2011, the country recorded a weekly average of 7,697 cases and 62 deaths due to cholera and in 2012 they saw a weekly average of 1,498 cases and 11 deaths.

In 2014, the weekly average number of cholera cases and deaths is down to 291 and one, respectively. When the outbreak was at its peak, all ten departments of Haiti were recording cases; however, the departments of Nippes and Nord Est have not recorded new cases in several weeks.

Haiti's neighbor to the east, the Dominican Republic, which has reported 31,628 suspected cholera cases, including 471 deaths since the outbreak began in November 2010, is now reporting a monthly average of 31 cases.

Despite the promising news of a downward trend of cholera in Hispaniola, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week released updated travel notices due to cholera for people going to Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

The Haiti cholera outbreak that commenced in Oct. 2010, and the subsequent outbreaks in the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico has been linked to UN peacekeepers from Nepal, is expected to continue on for another decade, according to Rosalyn Chan M.D. with the Global Health and Justice Partnership at the Yale School of Public Health, although the Nepalese government denies the allegations. Prior to the current outbreak, Haiti was cholera-free for about 100 years.

According to the CDC, cholera is a bacterial disease that can cause diarrhea and dehydration. Cholera is most often spread through the ingestion of contaminated food or drinking water. Water may be contaminated by the feces of an infected person or by untreated sewage. Food is often contaminated by water containing cholera bacteria or by being handled by a person ill with cholera.

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