Cholera's Grip On Haiti Continues To Tighten The number of Haitians killed by cholera has climbed to more than 1,300, with tens of thousands of others sick with the illness. The deadly epidemic is spreading as Haiti is preparing to hold elections, nearly a year after an earthquake devastated the capital.
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Cholera's Grip On Haiti Continues To Tighten

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Cholera's Grip On Haiti Continues To Tighten

Cholera's Grip On Haiti Continues To Tighten

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The United Nations is appealing for more money for Haiti, along with more doctors, more nurses and more equipment to help fight the cholera epidemic. The death toll continues to rise. Haitian officials say more than 1,300 people have been killed by cholera.

NPR's Jason Beaubien got a firsthand view of the epidemic.

JASON BEAUBIEN: At a cholera treatment center run by Doctors Without Borders in Port-au-Prince, 37-year-old Jacques Ordinay is lying on a cot. He's in a large white tent with a half-dozen other patients. A drip line runs into the back of his hand. Unlike most of the other patients -some of whom have only a sheet - Ordinay has a pillow, a blue kimono and a cell phone by his side. His house was not destroyed in the earthquake. He says he knew about cholera and was trying to be careful not to get it.

Mr. JACQUES ORDINAY: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Ordinay says he's very worried about this cholera outbreak. I had the chance to be more careful than others and I got the disease. The people living outdoors and in the unclean areas, they'll be even more affected by it.

The January earthquake left more than a million people homeless. It's now clear that cholera has spread throughout the capital, including the overcrowded camps for quake survivors. Ordinay says he was feeling fine on Sunday. But the disease hit him on Monday, and a few hours later, he was laid out on this cot on a drip.

Mr. ORDINAY: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: I was feeling horrible, he says. I couldn't talk. I couldn't hold myself up. I had cramps throughout my body. I had diarrhea. I was vomiting. But he says after a day here, he's feeling much better.

Cholera can kill a person within a matter of hours. It also can be treated fairly easily. The problem right now is that because Haiti hasn't had cholera for decades, much of the country lacks the infrastructure to address it.

Medecins Sans Frontieres opened this cholera treatment center in the capital three weeks ago.

Ms. AURELIE BAUMEL (Medecins Sans Frontieres): So here is the triage zone. It's where patients are arriving, so we can enter for you to see.

BEAUBIEN: Aurelie Baumel with MSF steps into one of the 20 hospital tents on the grounds of the center.

Ms. BAUMEL: So patients are in different stage, different level of severity of cholera. So you see some patients who are lying and already perfused, to have their rehydration solution. And some of them are just better. They can sit, and they can be rehydrated orally.

BEAUBIEN: She says the average stay is just three days, and then the patients can go home. Cholera has now been detected in eight of Haiti's 10 provinces, and the Haitian Health Ministry has confirmed almost 57,000 cases since the outbreak began last month.

MSF doctor Michel Jansen says it's very hard to say whether the epidemic in Haiti will get worse in the coming days.

Dr. MICHEL JANSEN (Medecins Sans Frontieres): It's like a three-day forecasting of the weather. Nobody knows how it will happen. What we are sure is that every day, we have about 600 still new patients admitted. That means that the outbreak is still going on.

BEAUBIEN: He says MSF is ramping up treatment centers across Haiti, but he says there's no way they can reach every rural village in the country. Jansen says other aid groups in remote parts of Haiti should start offering cholera treatment in addition to whatever their normal work is. He says this is necessary, in part, because without treatment, roughly a third of patients die, but also because now that it's arrived, cholera is going to be in Haiti for years to come.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.

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