Cholera Outbreak near St. Marc, Haiti

An outbreak of Cholera began in Haiti’s Artibonite region earlier this week. The most recent reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) are of 157 deaths and more than 1,567 infected.

According to media reports, substantial numbers of cases have been seen at St. Nicholas Hospital in St. Marc and the hospital in Petite Riviere (30km east). Both hospitals are supported by US-based Partners in Health (Paul Farmer’s NGO).

Cases in Mirebelais (86km from St Marc and 40km from greater Port-au-Prince) have also been confirmed today. It is not yet clear if transmission is occurring in Mirebelais or if people from the St. Marc area are seeking care there.

At the request of the Haitian government, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the humanitarian community have begun responding. Medical teams have been mobilized, and medical supplies are being provided to the local hospitals.  Ten thousand boxes of water purification tablets, 2,500 jerry cans, and 2,500 buckets and hygiene kits are being distributed. Re-hydration salt sachets have also been distributed. Teams are traveling to the area to assist the local authorities in making a detailed assessment of needs and further assistance will be provided accordingly. The UN managed Health Cluster reports a stock of 300,000 courses of antibiotics.

There has been discussion in Haiti of establishing ring containment (“cordon sanitaire”) (similar to quarantine) to restrict further spread.

CRS’ Role

CRS does not currently have any health presence in or near the affected area. Our closest partners are Hopital Alma Mater in Gros Morne (83km north) and Hopital St Francois de Sales in Port-au-Prince (96km south).

CRS is in contact with the WHO situation room and is preparing to respond to requests if and how our help is needed.

Currently, CRS is not directly involved in the response in the affected areas. The focus now is on preparation in the event our help is needed or the outbreak spreads to Port-au-Prince.

The team is focusing on keeping staff and their families safe. The CRS/Haiti Staff Safety and Security team shared information about the fatal diarrhea outbreak with all staff on October 21 (at that time reported as likely dysentery). Subsequently the health team has prepared and shared information with staff on prevention and mitigation of diarrhea.

The health team is verifying stocks of key supplies and equipment (IV solution, gloves, antibiotics, cots, etc).

The Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) team is working on key messaging (handwashing, use of safe water (bottled/boiled), how to make/use of oral rehydration salts) for populations in Port-au-Prince.

Beginning today and continuing over the weekend, the WASH team will conduct emergency distributions of soap in the settlements in Port-au-Prince, increase the quantity of water delivered, spray all sanitation and hygiene facilities with chlorine solutions, and conduct awareness sessions.

CRS has restricted staff movement to and from St. Marc and Mirebelais to only immediate operational requirements.

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