Cuba battling Havana cholera outbreak

HAVANA, (Reuters) – Cuban authorities are scrambling to contain a cholera outbreak that has sickened dozens of people in Havana, the capital city of 2.2 million residents and a popular tourism destination.

In a brief communique issued yesterday, the Health Ministry said the outbreak was first detected on Jan. 6, and was being contained.

“Fifty-one cases have been confirmed to date,” the statement read, without mentioning fatalities.

“Due to the measures adopted transmission is in the phase of extinction,” it said.

But in off-the-record discussions with a ministry official and doctor directly involved in fighting the outbreak, a different picture emerged with hundreds of suspected cases.

They said the first cases were traced to a baseball game at the Latin American Stadium in the Cerro municipality of the Cuban capital, where fans come from all parts of the city to watch their team, the Industriales, play.

“We know what happened. Either the pork sandwiches or Tan Rico soda pop was contaminated at a game earlier this month,” the official said.

“Even some of the baseball players became sick,” she added.

The Health Ministry statement said the outbreak had begun in Cerro and “later spread to other municipalities in the capital.”

Tens of thousands of tourists are visiting Havana, but there have been no reports of foreigners catching the illness.

Community clinics and family doctors are on high alert and giving out instructions to prevent the disease, transportation hubs have passengers sterilizing their shoes before leaving town and eateries are being systematically inspected and sometimes closed, residents say.

The official said Havana had been preparing to fight the disease since Cuba’s first cholera outbreak in decades last year in eastern Granma province.

There have been scattered cases since then, but all were traced to the Granma area and quickly contained, she said.

“This time is different. There are many cases, but we are well prepared in terms of supplies and the protocol,” she said, adding, “let’s just hope we can stop this before it becomes much worse.”

ARMY OF HEALTH PERSONNEL

Martica, a Culture Ministry employee, tells a tale typical of the stories circulating around the city.

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