Although over 250 people have now died of cholera in central Haiti there are indications that the spread of the disease in that area is now slowing. Five infected people are receiving treatment in Port au Prince but they are all recent arrivals from the affected region of Artibonite. There are no indications so far that the disease is spreading in the city but this remains a very serious risk.
Cholera causes acute watery diahorrea, which helps it spread very quickly. If untreated, over half of patients can die of dehydration, often within hours. Fortunately, the disease can usually be treated with oral rehydration therapy which is cheap and very effective. Ensuring proper hygiene and providing clean water is absolutely essential to prevent the spread of the disease.
DEC members are already assisting in Artibonite and are also involved in preparing to contain outbreaks elsewhere in the country, including the capital. Substantial improvements to water supply and sanitation have been made in many camps in Port-au-Prince by DEC member agencies and others. Provision of drinking water and toilets in now better than before the quake struck but is still grossly inadequate. Overcrowding and other limits on the improvements that can be made to services mean that a cholera outbreak would be a grave threat to quake survivors.