-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- The cholera epidemic in
Haiti this year will be far worse than the 400,000 cases predicted
by the United Nations, new study findings indicate.
There could be nearly twice as many cases of the potentially
deadly diarrheal disease -- an estimated 779,000 -- between March
and November of this year, according to researchers at the
University of California, San Francisco and Harvard Medical
The discrepancy is important because U.N. projections determine
the allocation of resources to fight the disease, said the authors
of the study, published March 16 in
"The epidemic is not likely to be short-term," Dr. Sanjay Basu, a UCSF medical resident, said in a university news release. "It is going to be larger than predicted in terms of sheer numbers and will last far longer than the initial projections."
The cholera epidemic erupted in Haiti after last year's
devastating earthquake. Cholera -- spread from person-to-person
through contaminated food and water -- can be deadly if untreated.
In most cases, treatment for the diarrhea caused by the disease
involves rehydration with salty liquids.
Late last year, the U.N. projected that a total of 400,000
people in Haiti would eventually become infected with cholera. They
reached that total by assuming that cholera would infect 2 to 4
percent of Haiti's population of 10 million. But the U.N. estimate
did not take into account existing disease trends, or factors such
as where water was contaminated, how the disease is transmitted, or
human immunity to cholera, Basu said.
Basu and colleague Dr. Jason Andrews, a fellow at the
Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, used
data from Haiti's Ministry of Health and other sources to develop a
more sophisticated model of the spread of cholera in several
provinces in Haiti.
That led to their predictions of 779,000 cases of cholera and
about 11,100 deaths in the next eight months.
The researchers also examined the impact of making clean water
more available and the use of vaccines or antibiotics. They found
that a 1 percent decrease in the number of people who drink
contaminated water would prevent more than 100,000 cases of cholera
and about 1,500 deaths this year.
In addition, simply offering vaccination to an estimated 10
percent of the population could save about 900 lives, and more
widespread use of antibiotics could prevent 9,000 cases of cholera
and about 1,300 deaths.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
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