The cholera outbreak in Haiti poses many challenges, said U.S. State Department Special Coordinator for Haiti, Tom Adams. Poor sanitation is a major cause of the outbreak. "Also the fact that for at least 50 years, and perhaps as long as 100 years, Haiti has not had any cholera so there are no immunities amongst the population," Mr. Adams noted. In addition, the current strain of cholera appears to be more virulent than normal strains.
Mark Ward, Acting Director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at the United States Agency for International Development [USAID] expressed confidence in efforts by the Haitian government to treat the disease and check its spread. Mr. Ward praised the work of Haiti's medical professionals who are working around the clock to fight the deadly disease. USAID's Office of Disaster Assistance has provided about $9 million dollars to meet the crisis.
"Our strategy right now is focused very much on prevention," said Mr. Ward. The U.S., said Mr. Ward, will work closely with Haitian authorities and non-governmental organizations to provide facilities, especially to those in remote areas.
"We're not doing this alone," Mr. Ward noted. "There are a number of other countries around the world that are also really stepping up and helping out." These include Brazil, the European Union, Spain and Japan. International organizations and NGO's also play a significant role in the cholera response.
Dr. Manoj Menon, of the U.S. Government's Center for Disease Control and Prevention said CDC’s top priority in Haiti is to save lives and control the spread of disease. CDC’s assistance in the response is focusing on the following areas: first to focus on hospitalized patients to reduce the case fatality rate; second, to assist patients in the community and ensure that they have access to oral rehydration salt and are aware of its proper use and have access to cholera treatment centers if needed; third, to prevent illness, via improved access to safe drinking water and education on improved hygiene, sanitation, and food preparation practices; fourth, working on surveillance, both laboratory surveillance and epidemiological surveillance, to monitor the spread of disease and inform the rational use of public health resources; and fifth, continue to work on the science to adjust interventions as necessary.
Cholera is a deadly disease. But it is preventable and treatable. The U.S. is committed to working with Haiti and its international partners to meet this challenge.