Cholera Appears in Havana, Cuba

Hospital wards set up for treating patients

Fernando Ravsberg

Osvaldo Pino the barber who died of cholera at age 46. Photo: Raquel Perez
Osvaldo Pino, a barber, died of cholera at age 46. Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — Osvaldo Pino Rodriguez, a 46-year-old Havana resident is one of the first cholera deaths in the Cuban capital, confirmed his mother, Miriam Rodriguez. He passed away on January 6 at the Salvador Allende Hospital in the densely populated Cerro municipality.

Osvaldo was a barber by profession and had been experiencing diarrhea for a couple of days when he suffered a heart attack and was admitted to the emergency ward. “He was put under observation and given rehydration liquids, but had a severe case of diarrhea and was very dehydrated,” says his mother.

Although there is no official recognition of the existence of cholera in Havana, Public Health sources have confirmed that there are dozens of cases and several deaths. The matter seems serious to the point that the Civil Defense network responsible for dealing with disasters has been mobilized.

We requested a meeting with the Ministry of Health to give us an overview of how widespread the disease is, but it was refused. Nevertheless, several doctors have confirmed that they´re told not mention the name of the disease.


Miriam explained that in the case of her son, the physicians “at first had doubts as to whether it was cholera. A day before his death they conducted the test, confirming that it was indeed cholera, so they decided to transfer him to the IPK” (a hospital specializing in tropical diseases).

Miriam Rodriguez is greatful for the medical attention but complains about the lack of information available to the population. Foto: Raquel Perez

However Osvaldo never left the Salvador Allende Hospital. “The moment they put him in the ambulance he had another heart attack. He got worse by the second, and the diarrhea was unstoppable,” explained the mother.

“In the hospital (as soon as they confirmed it was cholera) we were each given three tablets of antibiotics and they immediately came to take samples of standing water and drinking water. They then distributed pills to all residents and gave chlorine to all households.”

Osvaldo’s mother complains that the authorities did not explain to the people what is happening. “There is a lot of misinformation circulating. We ourselves were in contact with him all the time in the hospital, not knowing that he had cholera.”

A Secret

According to Public Health sources, the IPK hospital is overflowing and rooms for cholera patients have been opened in several health centers. Cerro residents assured that the Munoz Ward at the Salvador Allende Hospital is now exclusively for cholera patients.

Cerro, a municipality located in the center of the city, was the starting point and the area most affected, but the ailment was already expanding to other parts of the capital, said a doctor who preferred to remain anonymous.

The Salvador Allende Hospital in Cerro, Havana, has opened a ward for cholera patients. Photo: Raquel Pérez

The directors of several hospitals reportedly met with Civil Defense head General Ramon Pardo to coordinate actions in the face of the spread of the disease that reappeared in Cuba last year after a century of it having been eradicated.

In the affected municipalities, health care personnel are distributing three antibiotics that theoretically immunize people against cholera. Nevertheless, a week after the death of Osvaldo, they continue refusing to issue a public warning to promote prevention.

Although the presence of cholera and dengue was confirmed by health care personnel who work directly in combating both diseases, it´s difficult to determine its true magnitude; if these are just outbreaks in specifically localized areas, or if this can be considered an epidemic.
(*) Shortly after this article appeared the Cuban Public Health Ministry issued a statement claiming the outbreak is under control. Reed more…



3 thoughts on “Cholera Appears in Havana, Cuba

  • Now that the Cuban government has admitted the fact that cholera is spreading in Cuba, will they now release independent journalist Calixto Martinez? He was arrested on September 16th for reporting on the cholera outbreak in Santiago de Cuba. He faces up to three years in prison on a charge of “disrespecting the figures of Fidel and Raul Castro”.

    So I ask you, when the regime behaves like this, how is it even possible to respect them?

  • Rather than mounting a national campaign to eradicate this miserable and deadly virus and get ahead of it before it becomes a full-blown epidemic, the Castros appear to be choosing a more tepid and clandestine approach to limiting cholera on the island. Their reasoning appears to be grounded in the goal of limiting the international fallout which would affect tourism. This is despicable.

  • When travelling to regions with cholera, it is recommended to take Dukoral or a similar drug. This is is said to reduce the chance of getting sick by about 50% as well as lessening the severity. The recommended treatment of cholera is rehydration and antibiotics.

    I hope & prey the Cuban medical authorities can stop this epidemic in Cuba. Cholera is a terrible disease and nobody should have to suffer from it. But I am not sure secrecy is a good way to handle the problem. Rumours will spread anyway and secrecy only serves to increase the panic.

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