Cuba technically requires all visitors from abroad to obtain separate Cuban health insurance policies, which usually are purchased on arrival at an airport. It is not clear why those policies would not have paid for the foreigners’ stays at the Kouri hospital.
Cholera reappeared in Cuba last summer, after a 100-year absence, with the return of Cuban medical personnel who had worked in Haiti, where an epidemic has killed more than 8,200 people since 2010. Havana has confirmed only three deaths on the island, although independent journalists have reported dozens more.
PAHO’s statement Friday meanwhile said Havana had reported 47 cholera cases after Hurricane Sandy swept over the eastern part of the island in October, and another 51 cases in the province of Havana at the beginning of this year.
Havana’s report lacked details “but they seem to be trying to be more public,” said Sherri Porcelain, a University of Miami lecturer in global public health and senior research associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.
Cuba “reported that prompt and appropriate control actions were implemented in response to these outbreaks,” PAHO added, without mentioning the state-run news media’s refusal in most cases to use the word “cholera.”
“Per the information received, Cuba continues to develop and implement cholera prevention and control plans, to strengthen awareness of preventive measures by the public, to control food preparations sites, and carry out epidemiological surveillance of acute diarrheal diseases,” PAHO said.
“Public health awareness campaigns were intensified during the summer season; particularly those related to hand washing, chlorinated water intake, safe food preparation (and) washing of fruits and vegetables.