Public Health Department advises on Cuba cholera

The Cayman Islands Public Health Department has issued health advice to Cayman residents travelling to Cuba, following an outbreak of cholera in Havana.

In a statement released Wednesday, Dr. Kiran Kumar, the department’s medical officer of health, said it is awaiting confirmation of the cholera situation in Cuba from the Pan American Health Organisation, known as PAHO.

According to recent news reports, Cuban public health officials say there have been 51 new cases, but no deaths, since the outbreak began on 6 January.

“At this time, there are no travel restrictions. 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. Travellers should also carry an ample supply of oral rehydration salts,” Dr. Kumar said.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingesting contaminated food or water with cholera bacterium. It can take from five hours to five days for symptoms to appear after infection, although symptoms usually occur within 24 to 48 hours. Cholera infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe.

Dr. Kumar advised travellers to Cuba to contact their doctor immediately if they develop watery diarrhoea and vomiting within five days of leaving and to tell their doctor about their travel history.

The Cayman Islands Public Health Department advisory is also applicable to travellers to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which have also been affected by cholera.

“Cholera is not present in the Cayman Islands and the chances of importation of cholera are limited. Even if it occurs, our excellent sanitation and safe water will prevent its spread. In addition, we have adequate facilities and drugs to manage any case should importation occur,” Dr. Kumar said.

Tips for prevention

Travellers to Cuba or any endemic countries can greatly reduce the risk of contracting cholera by following these practices:

Drink only bottled, boiled or chemically-treated water and/or bottled or canned beverages.

Ensure that seals are unbroken when using bottled drinks.

Disinfect your own water: boil for one minute or filter the water and add two drops of household bleach or half an iodine tablet per litre of water.

Use bottled, boiled or chemically-treated water to wash dishes and brush teeth.

Use ice in your drink only if you know it was made from boiled or treated water.

Wash your hands often with soap and clean water.

Clean your hands before you eat or prepare foods, and after using the bathroom.

Eat foods that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot, or fruit that you have peeled yourself.

Cook all vegetables. Do not eat salads or other raw vegetables.

Do not buy food or beverages from street vendors.