Cuba Raises Cholera Case Count to 158

Neighborhood staples store in Manzanillo. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban authorities today raised the official count of confirmed cases of cholera to 158, following an outbreak of the disease in the city of Manzanillo, in the eastern province of Granma. They have also confirmed the presence of “isolated cases” in other regions of the island, reported DPA news.

However the outbreak is controlled and “declining,” notes the Cuban Ministry of Public Health in a statement published in the official Granma newspaper. No new deaths were reported.

According to the authorities, three people have died so far as a result of the disease, reported on July 2, which pointed to contamination of water wells as the cause of the outbreak in Granma Province.

“The measures taken have allowed the waterborne epidemic to decline, with there being no evidence of disease spreading through food or any other manner,” the statement explained.

The government reported ten days ago that this is the first outbreak of cholera on the island in more than 100 years. The major national media sources hadn’t reported on the situation since then, though residents in Granma Province have spoken about prevention campaigns being carried out there on the local level.

The US network CNN on Friday broadcast reports about cholera from Manzanillo hospitals after finally obtaining authorization from Cuban authorities.

Over the past several days there were rumors of suspected cases of cholera in several Havana hospitals, though the Health Ministry gave no details today about where other contagions have been recorded.

“Isolated cases have been diagnosed in other regions of the country from people who became infected in Manzanillo,” today’s statement only said.

The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) had previously dismissed the possibility of there being cases of cholera in the capital city. “In Havana there are no cases,” said Jorge Abad, a PAHO specialist in Cuba, speaking to DPA on Thursday.

Abad also discussed the possibility of the disease having come from neighboring Haiti, which was hit by an cholera epidemic two years in the wake of the of January 2010 earthquake. In addition, teams of hundreds of Cuban doctors are working in medical assistance missions in Haiti.

“There is the possibility that it may have come from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, or perhaps from some African country,” said Abad. Many Cuban assistance workers are also serving in Africa.

Neighboring countries such as Mexico have begun implementing health checks at airports as a precaution.

Meanwhile, representatives of anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the United States several days ago accused the Cuban government of failing to report the outbreak for fear of damaging the island’s tourism industry.

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