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Haiti cholera death toll rises

by Kelly MacNeil on October 25, 2010

After more than 3,000 people were reported to be infected with cholera in Haiti, officials claimed the disease's infection rate had stabilized. However, the nation's death toll is still on the rise and the disease remains a serious threat to over a million Haitians displaced by an earthquake that hit the nation in January.

The deadly disease has claimed the lives of 253 Haitians so far. Another 3,015 cases of infection have been reported, according to CNN.

Some officials are worried about the spreading of the disease to the country's capital. "Port-au-Prince already has more than 2.4 million people, and the way they are living is dangerous enough already. Clearly a lot more needs to be done," Claude Surena, president of the Haitian Medical Association told MSNBC.

Director general of Haiti's health department said it would not be difficult to prevent the spread to Port-au-Prince, according to the BBC.

However, even if the disease can be kept out of the capital, the 1.3 million people in tents may still be at a serious risk from the disease.

Currently the 1.3 million people living in tents lack a consistent supply of clean water and are near areas of frequent flooding during to Haiti's rainy season, reports The Economist.

Haiti's health ministry is urging affected individuals to make a re-hydration serum out of salt, sugar and water to help re-hydrate their systems on their way to the hospital.

Haiti's healthcare system is ill-equipped to independently handle the disease, according to CNN. However, the earthquake appears to have helped just as much as it has made the country vulnerable to the disease. Specialists are optimistic they will be able to control the outbreak due to the increased amount of aid in the country following the natural disaster.

"In a way, it couldn’t have happened at a better moment than now because everyone is on the field — lots of [non-governmental organizations], lots of money. We haven’t had any hurricanes so far this fall but people are here, and people are prepared," Marc Paquette, Haiti director for the Canadian branch of Medecins du Monde told Boston.com.

Cholera, which is caused by bacteria and transmitted through contaminated water and food, causes diarrhea and vomiting which leads to severe dehydration. The disease can kill within hours if left untreated, according to the CDC. Haiti's health ministry is urging those affected to drink a home remedy of sugar, salt and water until they reach the hospital, reports The Guardian. 

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