Cholera outbreak in Haiti

UPDATE: All comments below are correct, thank you for playing! Bonus will be added onto Blackboard.

I’m sure that everyone has been following the emerging epidemic of  cholera in Haiti this past week.  Over 3000 cases have been reported, with 259 deaths (almost 10% mortality rate) as new deaths were reported in the capital of Port Au Prince.  Cholera is a bacterial infection caused by the Gram negative Vibrio cholerae, which produces a potent exotoxin. Cholera toxin affects the cells of the intestinal tract, and causes the body to lose tremendous amounts of water from the intestines into the bowel resulting in a characteristic “rice-water stool.” The only effective treatment for cholera is fluid replacement therapy and waiting out the infection, but if the fluid replacement is not accomplished in time fluid loss can result in fatal dehydration.

Although this is a very significant epidemic and Haiti is only a few hundred miles from the mainland United States, public health officials in Florida are not concerned about spreading of the outbreak into the U.S.  Why do you think this is so?

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About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on October 25, 2010, in Bonus!, Lab, Lecture, Microbes in the News, Strange but True and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. FYI: This opportunity is available to all students enrolled in Microbiology, regardless of instructor.

  2. Kristen Trevino

    Public health officials are not concerned about the spread of cholera in the U.S. because it is transmitted via contaminated water or food. Since the U.S. has sanitation measures such as water treatment facilities in place for water coming into a house or establishment, that is not of a concern. Also, sewage is contained in sewage systems and shouldn’t contaminate any potable water.

  3. Officials in the U.S. probably don’t worry because this bacteria is generally due to fecal matter in the drinking water, something the U.S. deals with very well. For the bacteria to travel from Haiti to the U.S. would be tough because it would need to be transported via “dirty water”, or by a contaminated person who would certainly be showing symptoms, or move impossibly through the ocean, and the bacteria wouldn’t survive (salt content alone).

  4. There is not a high risk of transmitting cholera from person to person. The infection comes from consuming contaminated food or water. In the United States we are very lucky to have clean water and high sanitation standards. The US does not have to worry that much about cholera spreading to Florida even though Haiti is fairly close.

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