Warnings issued over Cuban cholera outbreak

| 09/07/2012

cuba-aid-workers (234x300)_0.jpg(CNS): Cayman Islands public health officials are warning people not to travel to Cuba unless their trip is essential following reports of a cholera outbreak in the country. This is the first incidence of the disease in Cuba for more than 130 years but officials say that at least 15 people are dead, and over one thousand people are affected by the disease. Cayman’s Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar issued a travel advisory Monday. “We advise that residents travel to Cuba only when necessary,” he said, adding that the chances of the disease coming to Cayman were limited but if the worst happened the health service was prepared.

To ensure ultimate readiness, the Public Health Department said it is calling a multi-agency preparedness meeting this week. Dr. Kumar said the risk of importation of cholera is low but he backed the pro-active efforts by various local agencies in monitoring the cholera situation in Cuba and taking the necessary steps to prevent , detect and manage any imported cholera cases.  “The chances of importation of cholera into Cayman are limited 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,” he added.

Dr.  Kumar urged travellers returning from Cuba who develop diarrhoea within five days to contact a doctor immediately, and state their travel history so that the right diagnosis can be made. He also told anyone who has to go to Cuba country to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves.

“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,” the senior government doctor stated. He also advised that travellers should also carry an ample supply of oral rehydration salts.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingesting contaminated food or water with cholera bacterium. It can take anywhere from five hours to five days for symptoms to appear after infection, but usually symptoms appear within 24-48 hours.  Cholera infection is often mild or without symptoms but can sometimes be severe.  Approximately one in 20 (or 5% of) infected persons will have severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhoea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these people, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

According to WHO figures however, up to 80 percent of cases can be treated successfully with oral rehydration salts. Although there is an oral vaccine available for use in endemic countries, it is not available in the US or in Cayman.  

Officials said travellers to Cuba can greatly reduce the risk of contracting the disease by following these practices:

Drink only bottled, boiled or chemically-treated water and/or bottled or canned beverages.
Ensure that seals are unbroken when using bottled drinks.
Disinfect your own water: boil for one minute or filter the water and add two drops of household bleach or half an iodine tablet per litre of water.
Use bottled, boiled or chemically-treated water to wash dishes and brush teeth.
Use ice in your drink only if you know it was made from boiled or treated water.
Wash your hands often with soap and clean water.
Clean your hands before you eat or prepare foods, and after using the bathroom.
Eat foods that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot, or fruitthat you have peeled yourself.
Cook all vegetables. Do not eat salads or other raw vegetables.
Do not buy food or beverages from street vendors.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Health

About the Author ()

Comments (6)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    To Miss Linda at our Immigration we are begging you to do something to stop the travel back and forth to Cuba. We know that they are very determined people but to stop them from entering Cayman for a while will not kill them, but we will loose lives here. This is a very dangerous disease. Also our hospital need to get wise on patients visiting the hospital especially the Emergency which get the most attendance. Instead of having that long wait that sends most people back home without being seen they should be screened immediately and if there are any signs of the cholera then they should be called in to see Doctor immediately. Even if you have to have two triage nurses on duty.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I heard that there was a meeting yesterday concerning Cayman Airways travel to Cuba. Can someone enlighten us of the outcome of that meeting? There are Cuban familys here who got news from Cuba that some of their loved ones back in Cuba is very sick in hospital with fever diarrohea etc but the word CHOLERA is not called. Are they trying to hide the fact that is what they have, that is the reason that it will spread to Cayman. I say pull Cayman Airways out  of Cuba now. Never mind the loss of money or the almighty votes because in the long run it will cost us.AMEN.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Folks, Cuba, has an aged infrastructure and their drinking water line is probably getting infusions of who knows what from their sewer lines that are probably broken and bleeding into their drinking water.   Listen up!!!!   This is serious.   Please, everyone start drinking bottled water and/or boil your drinking water and just put it in the fridge for a short while.

    This is a serious situation and this disease can cause death in  a short while after a contagion.   Salad fixins should all be washed with salt and washed in clean water.   Boiling cabbage instead of raw cabbage slaw for those of us that are vegetarians would be best.

    If your on line article reports that there are thousands with symptoms, then you know that things there are probably worse.  How word has gotten out in the first place is a miracle to me.

    They will have to be vigilant to get rid of this and their tourism will definately be affected.

  4. Anonymous says:

    To the Powers responsible, please, please,  stop Cayman Airways for going to Cuba for as long as necessary. We already have enough issues here asit is.

  5. Anonymous says:

    150 years? Surely you jest. There was an outbreak during Castro's revolution.

    • Anonymous says:

      The probably mean the first 'official' outbreak.

      This is like the dengue fever and other infections that Cubans troops brought back after their involvement in Angola and Mozambique in the 1970s/80s – it never officially happened.