Cholera bacteria in Haiti similar to Southeast Asian variety

November 3rd, 2010 - 12:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Port-au-Prince, Nov 3 (IANS/EFE) The origin of the cholera bacteria discovered in Haiti, which over the past two weeks have caused at least 337 deaths and infected more than 4,700 people, is similar in appearance to the type found in Southeast Asia, Radio Kiskeya said, citing US and Haitian experts.

According to a publication on the broadcaster’s web page, the analysis isolated the DNA from samples of the bacteria obtained from cholera victims in Haiti and showed that the disease originates from the Southeast Asian variety of the bacteria.

The investigation, which is being carried out by the Haitian Health Ministry and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, however, that new complementary analyses must be performed to confirm the report.

Radio Kiskeya also emphasised that Haitian Public Health Minister Alex Larsen said that “the exact origin will never be known” for the bacteria.

Last Friday, hundreds of people demonstrated in the eastern city of Maribalais against the presence of a Nepalese unit of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or Minustah, stationed near the spot considered to be the focal point of the epidemic.

“Minustah out” of Haiti, shouted the protesters, who called for justice and reparations for the victims of the disease.

Minustah, however, rejected the accusations that the Nepalese force had been the cause of the cholera outbreak.

Amid the cholera outbreak and the painfully slow recovery from the Jan 12 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people, Haiti must now prepare for a possible direct hit by Hurricane Tomas.

“Even in the case where Tomas just brushes Haiti, it could exacerbate the epidemic, and it would facilitate the spread of the disease in Port-au-Prince, where a third of the population continues living in (refugee) camps,” the spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, Jean-Philippe Chauzy, said Tuesday in Geneva.

Anticipating a new catastrophe in the already devastated country, UN agencies are organising to avoid - as best they can - additional problems, knowing that the impact of Tomas could have enormous consequences.

“Half a million people could be affected by this hurricane,” Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said. “The problem is that we have 1.3 million people living in 1,300 camps” in and around the Haitian capital.

“For the first time relief agencies are dealing with three disasters at the same time, in fact: the aftermath and the consequences of the earthquake, the cholera outbreak, and the next hurricane,” she said.

–IANS/EFE
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