Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic Update

Today the NY Times ran an article about Haiti’s cholera epidemic, a disease that’s spread through fecal contamination of water. Before Haiti’s devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010, only 12% of the country had access to piped, treated water and after that number declined rapidly. That set up Haiti as a prime candidate for a cholera outbreak.

From the article:

“…cholera has killed more than 7,050 Haitians and sickened more than 531,000, or 5 percent of the population. Lightning fast and virulent, it spread from here through every Haitian state, erupting into the world’s largest cholera epidemic despite a huge international mobilization still dealing with the effects of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.”

This week, Direct Relief is giving Praecipio International a $20,000 grant to fund the Haiti Epidemic Advisory System (HEAS)-the world’s first National Weather Service-inspired infectious disease forecasting center. This grant will enable them to reactivate the network starting April 1 now that rainy season has begun in Haiti and early reports are already showing a rise in cases—as noted in the article.

The HEAS serves three basic functions:

  1. issuance of forecasts for infectious diseases of medical or public health significance
  2. facilitation of the HEAS social network, which produces “live” situational awareness
  3. facilitation of “switchboard operation” to rapidly connect warning to emergency response

This will help to provide information to the various health actors around Haiti and lead to more rapid detection and confirmation and then response. It helps us at Direct Relief because we have pre-positioned in Haiti 6 cholera modules and 300,000 sachets of oral rehydration to respond immediately upon confirmation from the HEAS on a cholera spike.

Learn more about our Haiti Relief and Recovery program and see our Cholera Response Flickr Photo set below.

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