A cholera outbreak in eastern Cuba remained at 85 confirmed cases as government officials reported that crews rushed in from other regions helped to pump out 320 septic tanks and fix clogged water pipes.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fl., meanwhile, asked the Miami-Dade County Health Department and the U.S. State and Treasury Departments to issue warnings to U.S. residents travelling to Cuba because of the cholera.
Granma province epidemiologist Ana Maria Batista said on television Monday night that the number of cholera cases confirmed in the province, the focus of the epidemic, stood at 85 — the same number she had reported Sunday.
Batista told the provincial CNC Granma station that the outbreak was under control even though other numbers she reported continued to grow, said Santiago Marquez, a doctor and dissident who lives in the city of Manzanillo.
The cases of general diarrhea and vomiting reported in the province since late June rose by 109 to 4,107 from Sunday to Monday, she declared, and those admitted to hospitals rose from 110 to 112 persons, Marquez noted.
Batista did not mention the number of deaths or suspected cholera cases on Monday, he added. She reported 332 suspected cases Saturday and 346 Sunday. On Saturday, she reported three deaths while dissidents put the toll at five to 15.
Of the confirmed cases, 63 were reported in Manzanillo, 20 in the nearby municipalities of Yara, Niquero and Campechuela and two in the provincial capital of Bayamo, according to Batista.
Her three appearances on provincial television have been the lone official word on the epidemic since the Cuban government issued a brief statement July 3 confirming three deaths and 53 cases of cholera in the Granma region. The island’s state-run national newspapers, TV and radio chains have not published any of her words.
The head of the provincial water department, Ramon González, noted during Monday’s TV program that his seven work “brigades,” some of them rushed in from other regions, had pumped out 320 septic tanks and fixed more than 90 percent of the “obstructions” in the water pipes, according to Marquez.
The physician added that pharmacies are limiting sales of Sodium Hypochlorite, used to purify water, to one bottle per customer at 1.75 Cuban pesos — about 7 U.S. cents — and families also are treating their water with tincture of iodine.
Government health workers distributed water purification tablets in the Manzanillo neighborhood most affected by the water-borne disease, La Vuelta del Caño, but not in other parts of the city, he told El Nuevo Herald.
CNC Granma has said it will continue to broadcast Batista’s reports as long as needed. But neither its web page, www.cnctv.icrt.cu, nor the provincial newspaper, La Demajagua, has published anything on the outbreak.
In Washington, the Pan American Health Organization, which serves as the hemispheric arm of the World Health Organization, said it was “monitoring the event (in Cuba) and has offered technical support to the national authorities.”
“According to the Ministry of Health, the outbreak is controlled and the trend is reduced cases as a result of measures implemented,” PAHO noted. The U.S. Center for Disease control has not issued any notifications on the outbreak.
Havana journalist Magaly N. Otero Suárez, who writes for the independent news agency Hablemos Press, reported that she had received unofficial word of eight cholera cases in Havana.
The Reuters news bureau in Havana quoted an unidentified public health official as saying three cholera deaths had been confirmed and two were “suspected.” A few cholera cases have been confirmed in Havana and other parts of the island, but all were people who had been in Granma, the official added.
Reuters also quoted a Manzanillo resident as saying that heavy rainfall in June had flooded many of the septic tanks in the city, with a population of about 130,000 and 390 miles southeast of Havana.
Ros-Lehtinen’s letters to the three government branches urged them “within all applicable rules and guidelines,” to issue travel warnings about the outbreak of cholera in Cuba.
The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC), which licenses business with Cuba, also should require all companies that handle travel to the island to notify passengers about the cholera outbreak, she wrote.
Her letters were sent to OFAC Director Adam J. Szubin, Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson and Dr. Lillian Rivera, head of the Miami-Dade County Health Department.