Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a travel notice warning travelers of an epidemic strain of cholera in Haiti. A disease that is most often spread via contaminated food or drinking water, cholera is a potentially fatal bacterial infection causing severe dehydration.
This particular outbreak is of special concern because of the current health care conditions in Haiti, which have been strained by the January earthquake, recent flooding, and the large number of patients being treated.
Since the earthquake, the U.S. State Department has urged travelers to be cautious when choosing Haiti as a trip destination. Those who do travel to Haiti should pack their own supplies, including:
- water purification tables
- oral rehydration salts
- prescription antibiotics in case of diarrhea (an indicator of cholera infection)
Travelers are also warned to follow these basic prevention steps:
- Drink use only safe water – bottled water with unbroken seals, purified water, etc. Use only safe water for brushing teeth, cleaning food, washing dishes.
- Wash hands often and thoroughly with soap and safe water. If no soap is available, use ash or sand to scrub hands and rinse with safe water.
- Keep toilets and sinks very clean with bleach, soap and safe water.
- Peel fruits and vegetables and and cook seafood until very hot all the way through.
What constitutes ‘safe water’?
It’s important for travelers to understand that water from piped water sources may not be safe. This includes drinks sold in cups and bags of ice as well.
To be sure water is safe:
- boil it
- treat it with water purification tablets
- treat it with bleach (8 drops of bleach for every gallon, or two drops for every liter of water) and wait at least 30 minutes before consuming or using it
- keep water covered in clean containers