Cuban authorities have confirmed that 51 people have become infected with cholera in the country’s capital, Havana.
The Health Ministry says it is the largest outbreak of cholera in over 40 years.
In an official communiqué, the Cuban government announced that health workers had reported a significant increase in the number of acute diarrhea cases in some parts of the city. Many of these cases were found to be among people with cholera.
The Health Ministry says it has identified the source – an asymptomatic food vendor who had become infected in eastern Cuba during a previous outbreak of cholera. Asymptomatic means showing no symptoms.
According to official Cuban media, health care professionals have been visiting dwellings door-to-door in Havana, checking for signs and symptoms of the disease in an attempt to stop its spread.
According to the BBC, a 46-year-old man died of probable cholera at the beginning of this month. There has been a considerable rise in the number of diarrhea cases in Havana.
Restaurants and cafes have been closed in the center of the capital, where authorities have only allowed sealed foods and drinks to continue to be sold.
According to Cuba’s National Center for Medical Sciences Information (Centro Nacional de Información de Ciencias Médicas), since Sunday January 6th, authorities detected an increase in acute diarrhea cases in the municipalities of Cerro (part of Havana) and then later in other parts of the city.
Some of these patients had signs and symptoms that pointed etiologically to suspected cholera. This triggered the activation of the state’s anti-cholera program.
Health officials wrote “The microbiological analysis performed by the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine determined that the causal agent was the enterotoxigenic bacteria Vibrio Cholerae O1 Tor, serotype Ogawa (with 51 cases confirmed to date).”
Cuban authorities added that thanks to their emergency anti-cholera measures, the current outbreak is in the “phase of extinction”.
Cubans are being urged to be extra careful regarding hygiene, including:
- Washing their hands regularly and thoroughly
- Making sure only chlorinated water is drunk
- Making sure foods are thoroughly cleaned and cooked
The British Embassy in Havana has issued a travel advisory encouraging Brits to “take sensible precautions” and to see a doctor immediately if they develop cholera-like symptoms.
There is concern among several European diplomats that Cuban authorities have been very slow to share information regarding this latest cholera outbreak.
What is Cholera?
Cholera is an infection caused by the vibrio cholera bacterium, which can enter a human through contaminated drinking water, or food that has been in contact with tainted water.
The signs and symptoms of cholera include:
- Extensive and watery diarrhea
People with cholera who are left untreated can become dehydrated very quickly, and can go into shock – in such cases, the disease can be life-threatening.
Approximately three-quarters of infected people show no symptoms – they do not get ill at all. However, they can contaminate water by passing stools (feces). Infected people may also contaminate food through poor hygiene.
Improved sanitation and water hygiene has made cholera virtually unheard of in the developed world. The last known case in England was in 1893.
Written by Christian Nordqvist
Copyright: Medical News Today
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