Travel warning follows Haiti cholera outbreak

Following a cholera outbreak in Haiti, Cayman’s
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar has issued a travel warning advising
residents to avoid all travel to that country unless it is essential.

According to the World Health Organization cholera in Haiti has already
killed 259 people out of 3,342 confirmed cases.

“We advise that
residents travel to Haiti
only when necessary. If you have to go, take vital precautions such as ensuring
hygienic food preparation, boiling or purifying all water, and washing hands
often with soap and clean water. Travelers should also carry an ample supply
of oral re-hydration salts,” said Dr. Kumar.  

Cholera is an
acute intestinal infection caused by ingesting contaminated food or water. It
causes rapid watery diarrhoea that leads to severe dehydration. However,
according to WHO figures, up to 80 percent of cases can be treated successfully
with oral re-hydration salts.

The disease is
spread through water which may be tainted by the feces of infected persons or
by untreated sewage. Food can be contaminated by using this tainted water or by
being handled by someone who has cholera.

While an oral
cholera vaccine exists, it is usually only stocked by countries where cholera
is endemic. Currently, the vaccine is not available in the Cayman Islands or
the US.
The US Centers for Disease Control does not recommend the vaccine for
travelers to cholera endemic countries, as it offers incomplete protection.

“We will explore the feasibility of procuring
some doses for travelers to Haiti.
However, because it is a two-dose vaccine, multiple weeks can elapse before
persons receiving the vaccine are protected. So even when people are
vaccinated, they should still practice standard prevention and control
measures,” Dr. Kumar explained.

He urged
travelers returning from Haiti
to contact a doctor immediately, and state their travel history, should they
develop diarrhoea within five days.

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