Epidemiologists predict the outbreak could last for months and say the entire nation of almost 10 million people is at risk because they have no immunity to cholera.
The United Nations warned that Haiti is facing one of the most severe outbreaks of the disease in the past 100 years. It appealed to international donors for almost $164 million in response money.
Of grave concern now are four confirmed cases that originated in the tent cities of Port-au-Prince, camps that sprang up to shelter those left homeless by the earthquake last January. Health officials fear that infection could spread quickly in congested, unsanitary conditions and in impoverished neighborhoods where clean drinking water is at a premium.
Symptoms of cholera, an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine, can be mild or even nonexistent. But sometimes they can be severe — profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting and leg cramps, which can cause rapid loss of body fluids and lead to dehydration and shock.
If left untreated, a person can die within hours.
Aid workers like those of the American Red Cross have been going tent to tent in Haiti’s makeshift camps, telling people of the importance of drinking clean water and outlining practices that can help avoid contamination.
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