Haiti: Cholera death toll tops 4,000

The death toll from Haiti's cholera epidemic has gone up to 4,030 more than three months after the disease broke out in the country's Artibonite valley, the health ministry says.

The number of cholera cases seen in Haiti totalled 209,034 as of January 24, the ministry said.

The severity of the epidemic has diminished over time, but the ministry's figures show that Haitians are still dying from the bacterial infection, which can strike swiftly with intense diarrhoea and vomiting leading to dehydration and sometimes death.

In the latest wrinkle in the evolution of the epidemic, Haitian and international health officials are investigating a cluster of cases of paralysis in recovering cholera patients with days of being discharged from a treatment centre.

"Experts including toxicologists are investigating possible contamination at a hospital or at home from medication, food, or another source as the cause of death in these cases," the Pan American Health Organisation said.

Another possible cause is polio, it said, but officials believe that is highly unlikely because polio is rarely lethal and three of the four patients who suffered paralysis died.

The health crisis broke out in mid-October as Haiti was struggling to recover from a 7.0 magnitude quake in January that killed more than 220,000 people, left 1.3 million homeless, and the capital in ruins.

While the epidemic is subsiding in Haiti, Venezuelan authorities announced emergency measures Thursday after 452 Venezuelans were exposed to cholera at a wedding on Saturday in the Dominican Republic, which borders Haiti.

There were at least 37 confirmed cholera cases among Venezuelans returning from the wedding, and officials in Caracas were trying to track down more than 400 others known to have attended the event.

- AFP

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