Cuba Reports Cholera Outbreak, First in Over a Century

Jul 10, 2012 | Jane Huston | Outbreak News

Cholera has reportedly struck Cuba for the first time in 130 years, causing three deaths and at least 85 illnesses.

The outbreak is centered in Manzanillo, a town of about 130,000 people located in the Granma province in eastern Cuba. Suspected, but still unconfirmed, cases appear in Caimanera, a town next to the U.S. Guantanamo Bay camp.

Officials have named contaminated wells as the source of the outbreak; the contaminated wells were subsequently closed and disinfected. Heavy rains and hot temperatures may also have been factors in the spread of the disease. According to the health ministry, the outbreak has been controlled and case counts are falling.

Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness arising from infection with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Transmission occurs via ingestion of contaminated food or water. Approximately 5-10 percent of those infected will experience severe cholera, which can rapidly lead to death if not treated. Treatment involves rehydration therapy to restore lost fluids and salts. Severe cases may benefit from antibiotic treatment, while zinc has been shown to help improve symptoms in children.

Prevention of cholera focuses on use of safe water and proper sanitation (toilets or latrines). Frequent hand-washing, especially before eating or preparing food and after using the bathroom, are also essential. While two vaccines exist, they are not routinely used. You can read more about cholera vaccines previously in the Disease Daily.

Cholera occurs almost exclusively in the developing world. There is an ongoing cholera outbreak in neighboring Haiti, begun in 2010 and thus far responsible for 7500 deaths and over a half-million cases. The Dominican Republic has also recorded 20000 cases and 360 deaths.

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