Travel advisory for Haiti remains in effect

| 07/12/2010

(CNS): While public health officials say the chances of importation of cholera into Cayman are very remote, with the cholera outbreak continuing in Haiti, a travel advisory to residents to avoid all travel to that country, unless it is essential, remains in effect. Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar issued the warning on 27 October in the wake of the cholera outbreak in Haiti. According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, cholera deaths in Haiti rose from 259 in late October to 1415 by 23 November. In addition there were 25, 248 hospitalizations and 60,240 hospital visits related to cholera.

“We advise that residents travel to Haiti only when necessary. If you have to go, take vital precautions such as ensuring hygienic food preparation, boiling or purifying all water, and washing hands often with soap and clean water. Travellers should also carry an ample supply of oral rehydration salts,” said Dr Kumar. “The chances of importation of cholera into Cayman are very remote and even if it occurs, our excellent sanitation and safe water will prevent its spread. In addition, we have adequate facilities and drugs to manage any cases should importation occur.

“Nevertheless we ask anyone who have travelled to Haiti to contact their doctor immediately should they develop diarrhoea and vomiting within five days of leaving. It is also important to state their travel history to their doctor,” Dr. Kumar advised.

To ensure ultimate readiness the Public Health Department called a multi-agency preparedness meeting this week. Minister of Health Mark Scotland said, “I am pleased that the Medical Officer of Health has alerted the health professionals and issued the travel warning very early in the outbreak. As it has spread nationwide in Haiti, the whole Caribbean is on alert. As Dr Kumar has noted, the risk of importation of cholera is low. However I applaud the pro-active efforts by our public health officials and healthcare professionals as well as staff from Environmental Health and Hazard Management Cayman Islands. Together they are monitoring the cholera situation in Haiti and have also reviewed the Cayman Islands’ action plans to detect and manage any imported cholera cases.”

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingesting contaminated food or water. It causes rapid watery diarrhoea that leads to severe dehydration. However, according to WHO figures, up to 80 percent of cases can be treated successfully with oral rehydration salts. The disease is spread through water which may be tainted by the faeces of infected persons or by untreated sewage. Food can be contaminated by using this tainted water or by being handled by someone who has cholera.

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