MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
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And I'm Michele Norris.
In Haiti, there are now more than 4,000 confirmed cases of cholera. That's according to the Pan American Health Organization. The death toll has reached 292, and the actual numbers could be higher since many small communities lack medical facilities.
BLOCK: The hardest hit area is St. Marc, that's a port city about 60 miles north of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.
NPR's science correspondent Christopher Joyce is at the hospital there, where the majority of cases have been treated. He joins us by cell phone.
And, Chris, what's the latest in St. Marc today?
CHRISTOPHER JOYCE: Well, I'm at the hospital. And I'm next to a courtyard where the patients are still unfortunately overflowing into the courtyard. A lot of elderly, a lot of children here. But that said, things are better than they were last week.
Unfortunately, they were building a cholera clinic in the town to try to take some of the patients to another place. And yesterday, apparently -I talked to local people - there was a demonstration, tents that were being put up were actually burned down. People tell me that the problem was that the clinic was being built next to a school. Apparently, the health ministry is not going to open that. So, for now, this is the place the patients are coming.
BLOCK: The people there in St. Marc who were protesting were worried that the disease would spread further in their community that's why they protested and burned down the tents?
JOYCE: As far as I can tell, yeah. I mean, you know, it's a bit sketchy here. There's a lot of rumor. And, in fact, a lot of people - and this is what's worrying epidemiologists - is a lot of people are fleeing. They don't want to be here and they're going to places where there isn't cholera, they've heard. And if they're asymptomatic, that's a terrible scenario.
BLOCK: Because then the fear would they would spread the cholera to places that haven't seen an outbreak yet.
JOYCE: That's right. And epidemiologists here and aid groups and doctors and the ministry of health are very worried about that. They don't want asymptomatic people, people who don't show symptoms yet but do carry the bacteria, heavy traveling. And if they travel some place that doesn't have good sanitation, then they defecate and the bacterium is transferred to the water supplies and then it gets into other water and drinking water, cooking water and that sort of thing.
BLOCK: There have been fears that the outbreak could also spread to the capital, to Port-au-Prince. What are you hearing about that?
JOYCE: Well, I was in Port-au-Prince yesterday, and there's a furious amount of activity. They're particularly worried about the camps. Wherever you go in Port-au-Prince, you see these huge tent camps - some of them have - you can see the latrines that have been hastily built to serve them, but there are 1.3 million people in these camps, as well as the regular, you know, the slums that have always existed in Port-au-Prince.
And those, in some cases, are even worse because the aid groups have not been into them. So they don't - I have to interrupt myself here because there are - two men are carrying a coffin here right in front of me from the hospital.
BLOCK: You're saying that they're bringing out a patient, presumably a patient, who has died from the cholera.
JOYCE: Yeah. Well, they're bringing one out or either bringing a coffin to put a patient into it. Yeah.
But I think the doctors I talked to here said they've only lost a couple of people in the last couple of days. So that rate is coming down.
BLOCK: Okay. That's NPR's Christopher Joyce. He's at the hospital in St. Marc in Haiti, where they're treating victims of the cholera outbreak.
Chris, thanks very much.
JOYCE: You're welcome.
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