Ministry of Public Health implements travel advisory for Haiti effective immediately due to anticipated resurgence of Cholera

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Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Labour Emil Lee

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department in the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA), has introduced a travel advisory for Haiti effective immediately due to the anticipated resurgence of cholera.

Parts of Haiti were devastated by Hurricane Matthew last week leaving close to 1000 person’s dead and approximately 350,000 people needing assistance.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) expects an upsurge in cholera cases after Hurricane Matthew, due to the flooding and the storm’s impact on water and sanitation infrastructure.

Water and sanitary conditions are expected to worsen due to the effects of the hurricane.  According to PAHO, efforts were already being directed to control the current epidemic of cholera and the high levels of vector-borne and water-borne diseases.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease that affects both children and adults and can kill within hours if left untreated. The infection is ingested by food or water contaminated.  It has a short incubation period of two hours to five days.  Up to 80 per cent of cases can be successfully treated with oral rehydration salts.

Travelers are therefore advised to postpone or delay travel to affected areas until the situation improves.  If it is necessary to travel to Haiti, travellers are cautioned to adhere to stringent hygiene measures.

While in Haiti, ensure that you take precautions such as hygienic food preparation, boiling or purifying all water, and washing hands often with soap and clean water. Carry with you at all times hand sanitizer.

Symptoms can occur within 24 to 48 hours of being infected with the cholera causing bacteria.  Cholera symptoms are generally mild; they include diarrhoea, vomiting, and muscle cramps.  About one infected person out of 20 has severe signs and symptoms, such as increased heart rate, dehydration, and shock. If not treated, death can occur within hours.

Cholera is diagnosed by means of a stool sample or rectal swab and sent to the laboratory where the lab confirms the presence of cholera bacterium.

To minimize the number of people infected, frequent hand washing, personal hygiene, safe water use and food preparation are a necessity.  Maintain these basic hygienic habits as you travel.

By taking a few basic precautions, cholera as well as most other food and water-borne diseases can easily be prevented.  The main rule is, always be aware of the quality of what you eat and drink. Also be observant of sick persons in your close proximity and maintain strict hygiene practices.

Upon your return, if you experience any of the abovementioned symptoms, please contact your family physician immediately and CPS, while maintaining proper hygiene.

PAHO points out that it is emphasized that cholera is an event of public health that can be predicted, prevented, and treated.

Help us keep Sint Maarten Cholera Free!

For more information call CPS at 542-2078, 542-3003 or email surveillance@sintmaartengov.org