CDC Aids In Response To Cholera Outbreak In Haiti Following Hurricane Matthew

The CDC is leading efforts to assist Haiti after Hurricane Matthew in examining damage to public health systems and provide support to affected Haitians.

Following Hurricane Matthew, rising cholera rates threaten Haiti due to flooding and damaged or destroyed infrastructure, according to a news report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).1 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is aiding in the international response to Hurricane Matthew, and has set up a command center to handle the crisis.2

The BMJ reported that following landfall of the Category 4 hurricane, widespread flooding damaged roads and bridges, caused food loss due to crop damage, and cut off communications due to damaged radio and cell phone towers.

“Many hospitals and health centers were badly damaged and are struggling with a lack of electricity, antibiotics, disinfectant bleach, and staff,” Susana Ferreira reported.

The CDC Emergency Response and Recovery Branch is coordinating with the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the CDC Haiti country office to combat cholera in the country and fight the spread of other communicable diseases associated with the hurricane.2 These include mosquito borne illnesses such as the Zika virus, chikungunya, malaria, and dengue fever, which now have a higher risk due to standing floodwaters that provide additional breeding grounds for mosquitoes, according to BMJ.

The CDC reports that 2.1 million people were affected by the hurricane, and of those 1.4 million need help, including 500,000 children.3 The CDC, together with the World Health Organization (WHO), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and other organizations are working to assist Haiti in combating the hurricane’s impact. The CDC has sent experts to the island to aid in fighting disaster-related diseases and has been working in partnership with Haiti since 2002 to assist in improving public health in the country.3

“A possible spike in cholera is the most worrying immediate threat. Floodwater has mixed with sewage, and many communities are reporting shortages of drinking water, driving desperate locals to drink from contaminated sources,” noted Susana Ferreira.

According to the CDC, cholera causes “profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, circulatory collapse and shock. Many infections are associated with milder diarrhea or have no symptoms at all. If left untreated, 25-50% of severe cholera cases can be fatal.”4 While cholera is rare in industrialized nations, it is common in developing nations such as Haiti.4

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  1. Ferreria, S. Cholera threatens Haiti after Hurricane Matthew. BMJ 2016; 355:i5516 doi: 10.1136/bmj.i5516.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016 Hurricane Matthew – CDC international response. CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response. Published October 21, 2016. Accessed October 24, 2016.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infographic: Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. CDC Global Health – Infographics. Published October 20, 2016. Accessed October 24, 2016.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sources of infection & risk factors. Cholera – Vibrio cholerae infection. Accessed October 24, 2016.