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Haiti’s cholera epidemic twice as bad as predicted, say researchers

March 16, 2011


Haiti cholera 2011 3 16 

A woman sits with her sick child at an International Red Cross field hospital for the treatment of cholera in Carrefour, Haiti, on Dec. 14, 2010. (Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images)

Haiti’s cholera epidemic may be twice as bad as health officials originally thought.

The number of people affected with the disease may be nearly 800,000, double what U.N. officials predicted, BBC reports.

The bacterial disease causes severe diarrhea and vomiting and can be life-threatening if left untreated as it can lead to severe dehydration. It is spread from person-to-person through contaminated food and water.

About 150,000 people contracted cholera and 3,500 died in Haiti between October and December 2010. U.N. health officials expected the number of infected at this time to be about 400,000. But researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, say the number is likely to be double that.

The new calculations take into consideration factors such as what water supplies have been contaminated, existing disease trends and the community’s immunity level, MSN Health reports.

“The epidemic is not likely to be short-term,” Dr. Sanjay Basu, a UCSF medical resident, said in a university news release. “It is going to be larger than predicted in terms of sheer numbers and will last far longer than the initial projections.”

The discrepancy is important because the calculated prediction determines the allocation of resources by the United Nations to combat the disease, according to the authors of the study.

The researchers’ study, which uses a mathematical model of the epidemic to make future projections, was published March 16 in the Lancet.

A cholera epidemic hit Haiti after last year’s devastating earthquake. The disease had not been found in the country for more than a century.

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