Rapid spread of cholera in Haiti capital feared

PORT-AU-PRINCE, (Reuters) – A cholera epidemic that  has killed nearly 600 people in Haiti has gained a foothold  in earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince and is expected to spread  widely and quickly in the sprawling city of 3 million people,  health authorities said yesterday.

The three-week-old epidemic, which had mostly hit Haiti’s  rural central regions so far, now menaced crowded slum areas of  the capital, as well as tent and tarpaulin camps there housing  more than 1.3 million survivors of the Jan. 12 quake. “The disease has reached the metropolitan area,” Gabriel  Thimote, the director general of Haiti’s health department,  told reporters in Port-au-Prince.

The spreading epidemic, which experts predict will be  worsened by flooding caused by Hurricane Tomas earlier this  month, has piled another humanitarian emergency on the Western  Hemisphere’s poorest state as it struggles to recover from the  devastating earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people.
Presidential and legislative elections scheduled for Nov.  28 in the Caribbean nation are set to go ahead.
Thimote said 115 cases and one death had been recorded at a  hospital in the city’s biggest slum, Cite Soleil, a labyrinth  of brick, wood and tin-roof shanties bisected by rubbish-choked  canals draining into the sea.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Deputy Director Jon  Andrus said that the Haitian capital, which even before it was  wrecked in the January earthquake had suffered from very poor  sanitary conditions, was “ripe” for a rapid spread of the  diarrheal disease, which is transmitted by contaminated water.

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