This October marked three years since the first case of cholera in over a century appeared in Haiti. HAS saw some of the first patients and has treated cholera and led prevention efforts since then. HAS can stabilize cholera patients at the hospital’s cholera ward and also in three of its community health centers.
The number of cases we have seen so far this year indicates that cholera is still a problem in the HAS service area, in the region, and in Haiti as a whole. Cholera is most often seen in the rainy summer months (June – October) in Haiti. This year, HAS has already admitted 142 patients for cholera, while the number was 135 for the entire year in 2012. Though the rainy season is ending, we continue to admit patients with cholera, and expect the year’s total admissions to be considerably higher than last year’s.
We experienced a true flare-up at the end of July and through August, after a calm first half of the year. The outbreak originated in the remote, mountainous areas known as Terre Nette and Bastien, and progressively spread down into the more populous valley containing two thirds of the population of our service area. The season’s peak occurred during the week of August 12 when 30 people were admitted to the hospital in one week. The number of cases declined relatively steadily throughout the months of September and October, but with a smaller peak in mid-September. Average weekly admissions were around 9 from late July to October.
We consistently reach nearly 10,000 community members each month with education sessions about important public health messages. As soon as the first peak hit, HAS focused on preventing cholera even more than usual by targeting the zones from which patients originated. Community health workers, public relations staff, and other healthcare professionals spent countless hours of group and one-on-one time to spread the message about cholera and how to prevent it, spending extra time in the areas like Terre Nette and Bastien with high rates of cholera. We also distributed water purification and hand washing materials, and disinfected houses using sprayers and bleach solution.
A Haitian law passed recently mandates that all health centers must treat cholera instead of referring all but the complicated cases to government-run cholera treatment centers. This stretches our resources, but HAS is committed to treating all patients that come our way just as we did during the first outbreak in 2010. Meanwhile, we recognize that we will have to be ready with materials and enough staff to treat even more patients in 2014 and continue to save lives from this fast-spreading, fast-acting, and potentially fatal illness.