Cuban cholera outbreak widens, reported cases hits 158

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, July 14, 2012 18:29 EDT
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Image: AFP Photo/Thony Belizaire
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The Cuban government broke 11 days of silence Saturday on the country’s first cholera outbreak in 130 years, noting the number of cases has risen to 158, though no new deaths were reported.

The Health Ministry denied there had been a “spread” of cholera on the Communist-ruled island, blaming the incidents outside the affected town of Manzanillo on “isolated cases,” that would be “treated and studied promptly.”

“This outbreak is not spreading,” it said in a statement, the second on the outbreak since July 3.

The ministry said the number of confirmed cases of cholera, an intestinal ailment spread through contaminated food and water, had nearly tripled from the 53 previously reported.

Three patients — aged 66, 70 and 95 and suffering from “a history of chronic disease” — have died from the outbreak, according to the ministry’s last report.

While the authorities had kept their silence on cholera, anti-Castro websites based in Miami and some international media published reports about the spread of the disease, saying there had been numerous deaths.

The pro-government blog Yohandry (www.yohandry.com) said Wednesday that the outbreak has been contained and denied there had been more deaths, claiming that “not a single case exists in Havana.”

Dissidents have criticized the lack of information.

“If anger (against the government) is dangerous, cholera without information transparency is worse,” dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez tweeted.

Health officials have said they believe heavy rains and hot temperatures contributed to the outbreak.

Cholera causes serious diarrhea and vomiting, leading to dehydration. It is easily treatable by rehydration and antibiotics, but the ailment can be fatal if not addressed quickly enough.

The outbreak is a matter of particular concern in Cuba, which prides itself on having one of the region’s most admired public health systems, seen as a laudable success for the half-century old communist regime.

The last known person to be infected with cholera in Cuba died of the disease in 1882, when the islandwas still a Spanish colony.


Image credit: AFP Photo/Thony Belizaire

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