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French expert says Haitian cholera must have come from abroad

media The destroyed national palace in Port-au-Prince Reuters

A French expert has said the strain of cholera that has claimed more than 1,600 lives in Haiti must have been brought in from abroad.

Many in Haiti believe the deadly outbreak was caused by poor sanitation at a camp for UN peacekeeping troops from Nepal, a country where the disease is endemic. The UN force says there is no proof of this.

Cholera specialist Professor Renaud Piarroux has carried out a study for the Haitian government. He says the outbreak started in the centre of the country, not by the sea, nor in the refugee camps. Therefore, the epidemic can't be of local origin.

Piarroux warned that the epidemic could yet cause sickness in 200,000 people.

Cholera has added to the woes of the impoverished Caribbean nation, which was devastated by a massive earthquake in January, leaving 1.3 million living in ramshackle refugee camps.

At the weekend, Haiti struggled to hold credible elections amid the chaos left by the double tragedy, and violent protests having broken out, pitting rival factions against each other or against UN peacekeepers.

Haitian officials say the first cases of cholera, which is a waterborne illness, broke out on the banks of the Artibonite River, downstream of a Nepalese UN base in Mirebalais, in the centre of the country.


Cholera is caused by a comma-shaped bacterium called Vibrio cholerae, transmitted through water or food that has typically been contaminated by human excrement.

It causes serious diarrhoea and vomiting, leading to dehydration. It is easily treatable by rehydration and antibiotics. But, with a short incubation period, it can be fatal if not treated in time.


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