The outbreak of cholera in Haiti, first recognised on 21 October 2010, continues to escalate. As of 14 November 2010 a total of 16,799 hospitalised cases and 1,034 deaths from cholera have been reported by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Cholera is spread by contaminated water and food. It generally occurs in regions of the world where there is no clean water or adequate sewage disposal.
Most healthy people infected with cholera do not become ill. When illness does occur, it is usually relatively mild and self limiting, and can be difficult to distinguish from other types of acute diarrhoea. Fewer than 10% of ill people develop ‘cholera gravis’ where profuse watery diarrhoea can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not given promptly.
Cholera does not occur in the UK and is rarely reported in UK travellers. The potential for imported cases of cholera to generate further cases in the UK is low.
(Information from National Travel Health Network and Centres, 17 November 2010)