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Cholera Outbreak in Cuba

As of 15 January, following international media reports concerning a renewed cholera outbreak in the Cuban capital, the Public Health Department says that it is presently waiting for confirmation of the situation from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Recent news reports cite Cuban public health officials as saying there have been 51 new cases, but no deaths, since the outbreak began on 6 January, 2013.

Outlining preventive measures for visitors to Cuba, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kumar states: "At this time, there are no travel restrictions. If you have to go, take vital precautions, such as: ensuring hygienic food preparation, boiling or purifying all water, and washing hands often with soap and clean water. Travellers should also carry an ample supply of oral rehydration salts".

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingesting contaminated food or water with cholera bacterium. It can take anywhere from five hours to five days for symptoms to appear after infection, although symptoms usually occur within 24-48 hours. Cholera infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe.

Travellers to Cuba are advised to contact their doctor immediately should they develop watery diarrhoea and vomiting within five days of leaving. It is also important to state their travel history to their doctor. This advisory is also applicable to travellers to Haiti and the Dominican Republic - the two other countries in the region affected by cholera.

Dr. Kumar further emphasised that, "Cholera is not present in the Cayman Islands and the chances of importation of cholera are limited. Even if it occurs, our excellent sanitation and safe water will prevent its spread. In addition, we have adequate facilities and drugs to manage any case should importation occur."

Side Bar: Tips for Prevention

Travellers to Cuba or any endemic countries can greatly reduce the risk of contracting the disease by following these practices:

- Drink only bottled, boiled or chemically-treated water and/or bottled or canned beverages.

- Ensure that seals are unbroken when using bottled drinks.

- Disinfect your own water: boil for one minute or filter the water and add two drops of household bleach or half an iodine tablet per litre of water.

- Use bottled, boiled or chemically-treated water to wash dishes and brush teeth.

- Use ice in your drink only if you know it was made from boiled or treated - Wash your hands often with soap and clean water.

- Clean your hands before you eat or prepare foods, and after using the bathroom.

- Eat foods that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot, or fruit that you have peeled yourself.

- Cook all vegetables. Do not eat salads or other raw vegetables.

- Do not buy food or beverages from street vendors.

For further information contact: Yvette Cacho