As Haiti’s Rainy Season Begins, Resurgence of Cholera Looms

Just weeks ago, International Medical Corps’ Cholera Treatment Center (CTC) in the rural town of St. Michel de L’Attalaye, was treating only a handful of cases each week.

That is, until the rain came.

In just three days, the CTC saw 70 patients, 30 of them admitted for severe dehydration. International Medical Corps’ mobile medical unit doctor, Alex, was not surprised when he was called to help the CTC manage the surge in cases. “We have been having a lot of rain, and whenever that happens you can always expect more cholera,” he said.

Before the outbreak in October 2010, cholera had not existed in Haiti for more than 100 years. At the peak of the October outbreak, International Medical Corps was treating as many as 1,200 patients a day in its CTCs throughout the country.

While cases had tapered in February, International Medical Corps has been preparing for a resurgence of the disease when the country’s rainy season hits. Central to this preparation is community education, as well as capacity building for medical professionals, community leaders, and other first-responders. This focus on training and education has been true since day one of International Medical Corps’ response last fall, and it remains true today, as communities brace for the possibility of yet another deadly round with cholera.

Cholera may have faded since the initial October outbreak, but as these early rains show, it is far from gone and threatens to strike again.As it did the first time, cholera often hits whole families at once and preys upon the youngest and most vulnerable. Twenty-four-month-old Rosmina arrived at the St. Michele CTC severely dehydrated. Her mother, who had cholera a few days earlier along with her older daughter, was angst-ridden. Although she had learned a few days earlier how to make oral rehydration salt solution – a lifesaving intervention that restores fluid and electrolyte levels – her baby would not drink enough of it to stay hydrated.

This brought her to the CTC for the second time in a week.

While Rosmina was admitted and given IV fluids, International Medical Corps staff taught her mother how to prevent the spread of cholera at home. Rosmina and her mother were sent back home, equipped with more oral rehydration salts and the practical knowledge to stop cholera from spreading further.

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