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Cholera returns to Cuba, 51 cases confirmed

Just six months after the first cholera outbreak on the Caribbean island in a century was declared over, the highly infectious and potentially lethal gastrointestinal disease has returned to Cuba, according to a CNN report Jan. 15.

Public domain photo/US Government

Public domain photo/US Government

The British Embassy in Cuba reported in a statement today that Cuban Health Ministry authorities said there were 51 confirmed cases of cholera in Havana.  This follows their report of an earlier outbreak which started in the east of Cuba in Granma province from June to August 2012.

The health ministry said nobody had died from the latest outbreak, which began Jan. 6, and stressed that preventive measures already taken had put the disease “on the way to extinction.”

In addition, the latest outbreak appeared to be caused by a food vendor who had not followed proper sanitary procedures.

Cholera is an acute bacterial intestinal disease characterized by sudden onset, profuse watery stools (given the appearance as rice water stools because of flecks of mucus in water) due to a very potent enterotoxin. The enterotoxin leads to an extreme loss of fluid and electrolytes in the production of diarrhea. It has been noted that an untreated patient can lose his bodyweight in fluids in hours resulting in shock and death.

It is caused by the bacterium, Vibrio cholerae. Serogroups O1 and O139 are the types associated with the epidemiological characteristics of cholera (outbreaks).

The bacteria are acquired through ingestion of contaminated water or food through a number of mechanisms. Water is usually contaminated by the feces of infected individuals. Drinking water can be contaminated at the source, during transport or during storage at home. Food can get contaminated by soiled hands, during preparation or while eating.

Beverages and ice prepared with contaminated water and fruits and vegetables washed with this water are other examples. Some outbreaks are linked to raw or undercooked seafood.

The incubation for cholera can be from a few hours to 5 days. As long as the stools are positive, the person is infective. Some patients may become carriers of the organism which can last for months.

Treatment of cholera consists of replacement of fluids lost, intravenous replacement in severe cases. Doxycycline or tetracycline antibiotic therapy can shorten the course of severe disease.

There is an oral vaccine available in some countries but it is not available in the U.S. Cholera prevention is the same as in other causes of traveler’s diarrhea.

Cholera, according to the World Health Organization, still infects between 3 million and 5 million people each year, killing between 100,000 and 120,000.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. Cholera in Cuba: Risk is low for European travelers - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] a follow-up to an earlier story about the cholera outbreak in Cuba, European health authorities say the overall risk of cholera infection in travelers visiting […]

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