50 infected in Cuban cholera outbreak

Second wave of disease from same strain that killed 7,900 people in Haiti epidemic

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 4:11am


Cuba's second cholera outbreak in four months - after 130 years without the disease - has infected more than 50 people and killed one in Havana.

The latest outbreak was from the same cholera strain found to have been introduced in Haiti by Nepalese UN peacekeepers, unleashing an epidemic in 2010 that has killed some 7,900 people.

Miriam Rodriguez, who lives in the Havana neighbourhood most affected by the outbreak, said her son, Ubaldo Pino, a 46-year-old barber, succumbed to the disease on January 6.

"He died of cholera and that is what is on his death certificate," she said. Authorities have not officially confirmed the cause of his death.

The Health Ministry said the outbreak was detected in the Cuban capital, a city of 2.2 million people, on January 6 after a surge in cases of acute diarrhoea.

It said 51 cholera cases had been confirmed.

The Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine traced the disease back to the same strain of cholera that caused last year's outbreak in the city of Manzanillo, 800 kilometres east of Havana in Granma province.

That outbreak, which hit in July and was declared eradicated August 28, claimed the lives of three people and infected 417.

It was the first time cholera had been reported on the Caribbean island since 1882.

The Health Ministry said the Havana outbreak "is in a phase of extinction".

The cholera was "generated by a food vendor, an asymptomatic carrier of the disease, contracted earlier in other regions of the country", the Health Ministry said.

The latest outbreak first appeared in a working class district called Cerro in the centre of Havana, between the Plaza of the Revolution and the city's main baseball stadium.

Rumours of a cholera outbreak spread in recent days after doctors and nurses began going door to door in certain neighbourhoods to distribute medicine. "They came to all the houses and said: 'Are you allergic to penicillin?' And they gave us three doxycycline pills to take, but wouldn't tell us anything," a woman said. "I asked them if it was cholera and they laughed but didn't tell us anything."