Four weeks after the Cuban government announced that an outbreak of cholera in the eastern part of the island was over, there are unconfirmed reports of new cases popping up in two small towns.
Twenty-seven cases were reported in the municipality of San Luis, in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, and 19 more in the Bahia Honda municipality 35 miles west of Havana.
Roberto González, a dissident living in San Luis, said that area public health workers and residents have told him of the more than two dozen confirmed cases and 102 suspected cases of cholera in the municipality over the past two weeks.
González said that on Tuesday he saw police checking IDs on municipal roads to keep out non-residents and barring all access to the Eliseo Reyes clinic in the village of Chile. Tanker trucks were delivering water to areas where the aqueduct has been shut down.
The Cuban government has not publicly acknowledged any new cholera cases since Aug. 28, when it declared that an epidemic focused in the eastern city of Manzanillo had ended with a final tally of three deaths and 417 confirmed cases.
Government officials provided little information during that two-month long outbreak of cholera, Cuba’s first in many decades. They confirmed it only after independent journalists and dissidents began reporting on the epidemic.
Part of the hospital in San Luis also has been turned into an isolation facility, and some of the more serious cases were sent to a hospital in the provincial capital, Santiago de Cuba, he told El Nuevo Herald by telephone,
Authorities also have readied a nearby school to accept more cases, added González, a member of the dissident Cuban Patriotic Union.
Independent journalist Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez, a resident of the port of Cabañas adjoining Bahia Honda, said neighbors and nurses told him of 19 cholera cases in that area, including the death of a 65-year-old woman.
Two public health employees wearing masks told his daughter last week to stay away from the Cabañas clinic because it was treating cholera patients, Rodríguez told El Nuevo Herald by telephone.
He added that other public health workers told him a government epidemiologist had instructed them on how to canvas Bahia Honda residents for symptoms of cholera, like diarrhea and vomiting, but told them never to use the word cholera.
Some work places in Cabañas have distributed water purification tables, Rodriguez reported, and residents were told Monday that a 10-day ban on fishing in local waters had been lifted.
Cholera bacteria are most often spread in contaminated water. In the Manzanillo outbreak, public health officials said heavy rains in June flooded latrines, which in turn contaminated some of the area’s wells. Most Bahia Honda homes have latrines and get their water from a nearby dam, Rodríguez said.