What cholera is, how it spreads and how to treat it.
Cholera: the facts
The death toll from cholera in Haiti has climbed past 1,000. Officials are desperately trying to quell the disease and stop it spreading further into the neighbouring Dominican Republic. In the aftermath of the earthquake in January, poor sanitation and crowding make Haiti an ideal breeding ground. There are an estimated 3–5 million cholera cases and 100 000–120 000 deaths due to cholera every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) statisticsCholer. Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince is being rocked by protests as many believe UN workers brought Cholera with them from Nepal where the disease in endemic. The UN denies this
What is Cholera?
Cholera is a disease that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea to the point where an infected person becomes dehydrated and if left untreated will die, sometimes within a matter of hours.
How does cholera spread?
Cholera is a fecal-oral disease - when infected feces gets into food or water supplies the illness spreads rapidly.
Who is affected?
Cholera can affect anybody. The cholera bacterium, Vibrio cholerae, thrives in countries suffering from poor sanitation and crowding making Haiti an ideal breeding ground.
What are the symptoms?
Cholera sufferers vomit profusely and release many litres of diarrhea a day. If left untreated dehydration will eventually result in death.
What is the treatment?
Oral, intravenous rehydration and antibiotics have the best effect on the infected. If treated quickly, patients usually recover from Cholera. Up to 80 per cent of cases can be successfully treated with oral rehydration salts. Haiti's poor infrastructure, lack of medics and poor public health awareness are making distributions of treatments very difficult.