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Cholera outbreak reaches Haiti's capital

THE outbreak of cholera that has killed 220 people and infected thousands in Haiti has reached the densely-populated capital, Port-au-Prince.

Five cases of the disease have been confirmed in the city and aid groups warned that the outbreak could move rapidly through the capital.

The ramshackle infrastructure and poor sanitation in the tented areas could greatly assist transmission of the waterborne disease, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting and can be lethal within hours if untreated.

Haiti is still struggling after the earthquake, which struck about 15 miles west of Port-au-Prince in January, killing up to 300,000 people and leaving a further million displaced.

Now health officials are investigating Croix-des-Bouquet, a suburb of the capital, which has a widely used bus station and could act as a transfer point for the disease. "This is a very mobile country. It can spread like wildfire," said Paul Namphy, of Haiti's national water agency.

Hospitals around the northern city of Saint Marc were struggling to cope with an influx of about 3,000 infected people. The United Nations said the main St Nicholas hospital was "filled to capacity", while "other health facilities are under strain to cope with the numbers of patients".

The source of the outbreak is believed to be the Artibonite River, which crosses the rural centre of the country and is used by thousands for washing and cooking.

International aid agencies have begun setting up treatment centres and emergency water sanitation programmes. Haiti's water agency has doubled the amount of chlorine in drinking water, while soap, purification tablets and information on hygiene are being spread. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent