Cholera has killed more than 7,500 Haitians and sickened more than 588,000 in what some describe as one of the worst epidemics in recent years. The number of cholera cases international medical aid groups, such as MSF, treat in one day is an epidemic in some African nations, said Schulz, noting that MSF has already treated 12,000 patients since January.
Thats a full blown state emergency for many, he said.
Within days of Isaacs passing, MSF reactivated cholera beds cots with a hole in them at three of its four cholera treatment centers in the metropolitan Port-au-Prince area. Another group, Boston-based Partners in Health, put staff on notice and relocated supplies from the capital to rural areas where many lack access to potable water and health facilities.
Dr. Louise Ivers of Partners In Health, which just completed a pilot cholera vaccination program in Haiti, said the group has yet to see a spike. But she remains deeply concerned about the epidemics impact.
Haitis Health Ministry statistics show that although the number of cases is significantly fewer than this time last year, Haitians continue to die at an unacceptable rate.
The proportion of people dying is in some areas higher than before, Ivers said. What it says, she added, is that there is a continued lack of access to quality services in some areas. In theory, no one reaching a hospital should die of cholera.
Health Minister Florence Duperval Guillaume said the government is equally concerned about cholera-related deaths as well as infections. Before Isaacs late night arrival here, the ministry ordered all government hospitals and clinics to remain open for 24 hours for at least four days after the storms passing. Hospital pantries, Guillaume said, were stocked with chlorine tablets, bottled water and oral rehydration salts.
All is well positioned for the prevention and care of patients, Guillaume said.
In addition to stepping up surveillance for new cases, health officials are working with a number of aid organizations such as Oxfam to scale up cholera response. Oxfam is currently rehabilitating dozens of damaged oral rehydration salts stations in the capital and making repairs to broken drinking wells in the Artibonite River.
Dr. Arthur Fournier of Miami-based Project Medishare said the Central Plateau, which was spared most of Isaacs wrath, also hasnt seen an uptick and the aid group hasnt reopened any of its treatment centers so far.
Were holding our breaths, he said.