Cuba issues alert on cholera outbreak

Health officials were recently alerted to a renewed cholera outbreak in Cuba. 

The Cayman Islands Ministry of Health and the Public Health Department confirmed their awareness of the situation following the release of a U.S. State Department security message on Aug. 20. 

Cholera is an intestinal infection caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with cholera bacteria. Symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting which, if severe enough, can cause death. In most cases, symptoms occur within 24 to 48 hours of infection but in others it can take several days for signs of the infection to appear. 

Although no travel restrictions are in place, the Pan American Health Organization confirmed that, between late July and early August of this year, there have been five cases of cholera associated with a history of travel to Cuba. 

Travellers to Cuba should contact their doctor immediately if they develop watery diarrhea and vomiting within five days of leaving the country. This advice also applies to travellers to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which are also currently affected by cholera. 

Acting Medical Officer with the Health Services Authority Samuel Williams-Rodriguez advised travellers to Cuba to be vigilant in ensuring hygienic food preparation, and to make sure disinfected water is used for everything from making ice to washing hands. 

“Travellers should also carry an ample supply of oral re-hydration salts,” he said. Dr. Williams-Rodriguez explained that re-hydration is extremely important in preventing death from cholera. 

Cholera resurfaced in Cuba last year after a century without any outbreaks. A year later, Cuban officials are still battling the disease. It is not known exactly how the disease was reintroduced to the country. 

Local health officials said that cholera is not present in the Cayman Islands and that an outbreak is unlikely due to the water and sewage treatment systems in place. 

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A man cools himself in water overflowing from a parked truck that delivers drinking water last week in Havana. – Photo: AP
AP

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