Cholera in Haiti

Source:  Cholera in Haiti    Tag:  vibrio cholerae vaccine
There are a few reasons why I chose to talk about Cholera, focusing on the ongoing epidemic in Haiti.

I'm currently reading an excellent book, The Poisonwood Bible (thank you, Mathilde), and it speaks of a cholera outbreak in a small village in the Congo during their rainy season.  The characters do not know exactly what it is, what causes it, or how it spreads; they only know it as  kakakaka.  One character describes it, "Evidently it's a disease where you have to go to the bathroom a thousand times a day...you go so many times you don't have anything left of your insides.  Then the children sometimes die."

The director of my program also studies the bacterium that causes cholera, Vibrio cholerae.  He and his students travel to Bangladesh every year to collect stool samples from cholera-infected individuals.  These stool samples are aptly-named rice-water stool.

Additionally, Tropical Storm (now Hurricane) Isaac just passed through Haiti a day or so ago, and poor Haiti has had an inconsistent yet ongoing cholera epidemic for the past 2 years.

Cholera affects developing areas of the world that lack clean water and proper sanitation, and it tends to strike during the rainy season.  It's passed on by drinking unfiltered and unclean water that contain the bacterium  Vibrio cholerae.  The disease causes profuse, watery diarrhea that leads to severe dehydration.  Treatment mainly consists of fluid and electrolyte restoration.  Unfortunately, individuals do not acquire any protection from previous infections/exposures.  Also, the current vaccine (only available to adults) protects individuals for only 3-6 months.  As a result, the vaccine is not widely used.

In Haiti, people have been suffering from a cholera epidemic since October 2010, a few months after the devastating earthquake in January of that year.  The peacekeepers from the United Nations are responsible for introducing the disease, which was caused by sewage leaks at one of their encampments.  Before that, a cholera outbreak had not been seen in Haiti in over 100 years.  How ironic and sad!

There are two notable articles pertaining to cholera in Haiti.  The first article is a New York Times Editorial piece from May, which gives a brief summary about the outbreak since 2010, including how two strains have now emerged in Haiti, causing increasing concern about potential vaccine development and future treatment methods.  The second, short article is from a local Haitian news source, and it talks about the most recent, developing cholera outbreak thanks to TS Isaac.

Sorry for such a lengthy posting.  I'll get better at writing efficiently with more practice.  In the meantime, enjoy!

NYT article:  Haiti's Cholera Crisis

Defend Haiti article:  Fear of Cholera Surge in Haiti after TS Isaac