Cholera Outbreak in Haiti Sparks U.N. Appeal

A worker sprays with disinfectant a woman with symptoms of cholera as she is held by a relative at the entrance of St Catherine hospital in Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010. Doctors and aid groups are rushing to set up cholera treatment centers across Haiti's capital as officials warn that the disease's encroachment into the city will bring a surge in cases. As of Friday, cholera has killed more than 700 people across the country according to news reports.
AP Photo
With more than 700 deaths, the three-week old growing cholera epidemic in Haiti has led to an international appeal for $163 million by the United Nations, the Associated Press reports.

More doctors, medicines and water-purification equipment are needed to stop the deadly bacteria spread through contaminated food and water via human waste, the U.N. says. Simple sanitation measures can stop its spread.

Overall, 200,000 people need treatment for symptoms ranging from mild diarrhea to severe dehydration, the global body said.

"We absolutely need this money as soon as possible," said Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the U.N. humanitarian office, told the Associated Press.

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She told reporters in Geneva that the funds need to be provided quickly "otherwise all our efforts can be outrun by the epidemic."

CBS News Radio reports that doctors are seeing dozens of patients on a daily basis at a makeshift hospital in Cite Soleil set up by the non-governmental organization Doctors Without Borders.

"We treated, since Friday until Monday, approximately 200 kids but no we don't have really the data because it's double every day," said nurse Virgine Gauder.

So far, about 10,000 people have gotten sick from the disease. Ten deaths and 278 cases have occurred in the capital Port-au-Prince, reports the AP.

The spreading epidemic, which experts predict will be worsened by flooding caused by Hurricane Tomas earlier this month, has piled another humanitarian emergency on the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation as it struggles to recover from the devastating earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people.

About 1.3 million quake survivors are housed in tent and tarpaulin camps.

"For sure here in Port-au-Prince (the danger of the disease's spread is in) the proximity of the population," Gauder said. "They are living in some slums, and there is really no space. The contamination really increases every day like this. And the concentration of the patients is in the slums, but today we saw already some patients outside the slums. So then we don't know where we are going, but it increases every day, every day."

Authorities have said that a vaccination was being ruled out at the moment, both because existing oral vaccines for cholera were not effective in the midst of an epidemic and on grounds of logistics, cost and training requirements. There are also limited global supplies of the anti-cholera vaccine.

Cholera can kill in hours, but if caught early can be easily treated through oral rehydration fluids.

Presidential and legislative elections scheduled for November 28 in the Caribbean nation are set to go ahead.