Cholera Spreads In Earthquake-Ravaged Haiti
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
It's Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:
And, Jacqueline, I understand you have traveled to the area where this outbreak was first discovered last week. Tell me what you were able to see.
JACQUELINE CHARLES: In the courtyard you have people, they have masks on. They're worried. They're family members. There are also people who are suffering from acute, severe diarrhea. And so right now, what they're to do is figure out a way to provide some additional medical assistance to those individuals.
LOUISE KELLY: And you mentioned just the fear that is permeating the area. I mean, I would guess a lot of people are afraid, even, to drink water right now, which is ironic because that's exactly what you need to do if you're showing any of these symptoms.
CHARLES: Exactly. It's a vicious cycle, because cholera is transmitted through contaminated water. It's one of the sources. And so people are being told they need to drink bottled water or boil their water. But they are very afraid to drink even what they know already is potable water. And that is going on both in the capital and in the valley where this outbreak first occurred.
LOUISE KELLY: Well, what do we know about the spread? Has cholera actually arrived in Port-au-Prince and how bad could it get in the capital?
CHARLES: There are five isolated cases as of yesterday. And they've been identified and they've been quarantined. And these are individuals who've contracted this disease from the area that was first affected. And so when you talk to health officials here they tell you that it has not spread, you know, to Port-au-Prince. But the fear is that soon they're going to start to see some sort of outbreak, and that it is going to arrive in the capital in larger numbers.
LOUISE KELLY: And give us a little bit of a sense. Is there access for most people to clean water and to medical facilities that have the supplies and the expertise that's needed to handle this?
CHARLES: No. Clean water in Haiti has been a long-standing issue. And while they've made progress over the years, especially in terms of potable water and getting Haitians to understand the importance of that, water security is still an issue. And so that's why this disease is so dangerous.
LOUISE KELLY: Who's taking the lead, in terms of Haitian officials, in dealing with this?
CHARLES: They've also offered up a remedy. It is a homemade remedy, but it does work. So should they experience severe diarrhea, basically a mixture of water, salt and sugar, they should start drinking that right away and to get themselves to the closest clinic.
LOUISE KELLY: OK. So, Jacqueline Charles, it sounds like bottom-line, just a few cases been reported so far in Port-au-Prince. They have been quarantined. But conditions being what they are, there's a lot of concern about where this could go?
CHARLES: Yes. They're basically bracing themselves for something that you know is coming. And unfortunately, I think, in Haiti right now it's not even a question of whether or not people will die, but there's a question of how many and how many lives can you save knowing that it's headed toward you.
LOUISE KELLY: Thanks so much.
CHARLES: Thank you.
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