NY Travel Clinic

Spike of cholera cases in Haiti

WHO report that there is an increase of cholera cases in Haiti this year, compared to the previous year.  There are over 15,000 people infected, according to NPR news.  The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all nonessential travel to Haiti.

Cholera is an acute bacterial intestinal infection caused by Vibrio cholera.  It’s spread by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated, and can cause diarrhea and dehydration.

Symptoms

The infection might not cause symptoms or be mild.  Some will develop diarrhea, with or without vomiting, rapid heart rate, thirst, and low blood pressure.  Severe cholera can cause acute renal failure, electrolyte imbalances and coma. Because it can be lethal, you must try to prevent if you have to travel to Haiti.

Prevention

There is no vaccine against cholera, but there are ways to prevent it.  You should pack antibiotics in case you get diarrhea, water purification tablets, and oral rehydration salts.

Wash your hands with soap, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.

Drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes.  If you can’t, boil water for at least 1 minute, or use water purification tablets, or a chlorine treatment product.  If you don’t have a chlorine treatment product, drink a solution made with 8 drops of household bleach for every 1 gallon of water and wait 30 minutes before drinking.  You should use the above options to brush your teeth, and to wash and prepare food too.

Cook your food well, and avoid fruits and vegetables you haven’t peeled yourself.

Bury your feces, or use latrines, or chemical toilets. Wash hands with soap and safe water (the above solutions) after using toilets or latrines.Clean latrines and surfaces with a solution made of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water.

If you don’t have a latrine or chemical toilet, defecate at least 30 meters away from any body of water and then bury your feces.

Wash yourself, and your clothes, at least 30 meters away from drinking water sources.

Before you go to Haiti, visit your doctor for an antibiotic. If you get sick while in Haiti, use the antibiotic.  IT’S VERY IMPORTANT to drink fluids and use oral rehydration salts to prevent dehydration.

If your diarrhea is severe and watery, get medical attention IMMEDIATELY.

If you don’t have access to medical evacuation, contact the Embassy of the United States in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, (American Citizens Services Unit office hours are 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Consular Section is closed on U.S. and local holidays.):Boulevard du 15 October, Tabarre 41, Tabarre, Haiti.  Telephone: (509) (2) 229-8000, Facsimile: (509) (2) 229-8027.