Health officials in Haiti say the cholera outbreak is gradually stabilising, but that they are preparing for the worst as the death toll tops 250 amid fears the disease may spread to the slums and refugee camps of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
AFP - The United Nations said Monday it fears that Haiti's cholera crisis could spread across the country, infecting tens of thousands of people.
"A nationwide outbreak with tens of thousands of cases is a real possibility," said a UN statement which confirmed five cases in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
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"This is an extremely serious situation and based on experience with epidemics elsewhere it would be irresponsible to plan for anything but a considerably wider outbreak," said Nigel Fisher, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti.
"We are particularly concerned about Port-au-Prince and those in the slum areas as well as in the camps, but we are also preparing for outbreaks in the rest of the country."
An estimated 1.3 million refugees from Haiti's devastating earthquake in January live in temporary camps in and around the capital.
Haiti authorities have so far confirmed 259 cholera deaths and 3,342 cases.
Sources of infection have been reported in the Artibonite and Central departments and the five in the capital, said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
All of those in Port-au-Prince are believed to have contracted the disease in Artibonite.
"Ensuring swift and effective response in areas known to be affected and doing everything possible to prevent the spread of the disease are the main priorities," said the OCHA statement.
The Haiti government and UN aid agencies "are continuing to rapidly scale up their response to the outbreak of cholera in Haiti, focusing on the worst case scenario of a nationwide outbreak of the disease."
The UN said five cholera treatment centres are being set up in Artibonite with extra doctors and epidemic management experts sent to the region.
Six cholera treatment centres will be set up as a precaution in the capital, the statement added.
"While we have sufficient supplies to handle this crisis at present, we must look at ensuring additional personnel and bringing in more supplies and support so we are ready to cope if this outbreak spreads further," Fisher said.
Date created : 2010-10-25