Cuba still battling cholera a year after first cases reported

HAVANA, (Reuters) – A year after the first cholera cases in decades were reported in Cuba, the country is still struggling with outbreaks in various provinces, health workers and residents told Reuters yesterday.

On Tuesday the United States issued a health advisory urging U.S. citizens living in or traveling to Cuba to take appropriate precautions such as the frequent washing of hands and avoiding untreated water, street food, undercooked shellfish and uncooked foods.

Last week the Pan American Health Organization reported five confirmed cholera cases among travelers to the Caribbean island this summer, an Italian, two Venezuelans and two Chileans.

They were the first tourists known to have contracted the illness since cholera’s appearance on the island in July 2012.

The Cuban government has yet to publicly respond to the reports and officials were not immediately available for comment.

Cholera is generally not fatal but can kill in just a few hours when diarrhea and vomiting cause dehydration, especially among the elderly. The illness runs its course within a week, making it relatively easy to track.

“There is cholera in various places and you can imagine we are having a very busy summer,” an employee of the public health ministry told Reuters, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to comment to the media.

“Many of us think the government should stop keeping it a secret. Cholera is very unpleasant, but rarely lethal, at least here in Cuba,” he said.

Tourism is an important source of revenue and employment in Cuba, attracting more than 2.5 million visitors in 2012.

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