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MSF alarmed by resurgence of cholera

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PORT-AU-PRINCE - The Haitian cholera epidemic is far from over. A sharp increase in cases has been seen in the capital and outbreaks have been reported elsewhere in the country.

Although the cholera epidemic in Haiti began to decline in February, it has not yet ended. In MSF cholera treatment centers (CTCs) in Port-au-Prince, teams have, in fact, seen an increase in cases since mid-May.

MSF had to reopen emergency CTCs to prevent existing treatment centres in Carrefour, Delmas, Martissant, Cité Soleil and Drouillard from being overwhelmed.

"Since May 29, in one week, MSF has treated almost 2,000 patients in the capital, and we have also been asked to intervene in other areas in the interior of the country, " said MSF head of mission Romain Gitenet. “Workload should be shared and coordinated in order to increase cholera treatment capacity in Haiti. Too many public facilities are still inadequate.”

It is essential that the authorities and their humanitarian partners mobilize to stop the spread of the disease by strengthening the national surveillance system and treatment facilities. Immediate improvements in hygiene, sanitation, and drinking water supply should be a national priority, in order to protect the most vulnerable people.

But for Gitenet, "vigilance is still the best protection. People must be strict about their hygiene and drink treated water. As soon as cholera symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea appear, it is vital to go as quickly as possible to a treatment center. Cholera is treatable, but without medical care it kills quickly."

As of the end of May, cholera has killed nearly 5,000 people from among the 300,000 cases reported in the country. Three per cent of the country’s population have contracted the disease.

MSF has treated 130,000 Haitians for cholera (43 percent of total cases). As soon as the first cases were confirmed in October 2010, MSF teams deployed to 9 of Haiti’s 10 departments to support local health facilities.