Cholera kills 13 in south-west Haiti in wake of Matthew, dozens ill

Men ride a motorcycle in front of destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, on Oct 7, 2016.
Men ride a motorcycle in front of destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, on Oct 7, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

PORT-AU-PRINCE (REUTERS) - Cholera outbreaks have killed at least 13 people in south-west Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, government officials told Reuters on Saturday (Oct 8), voicing concern that the disease was spreading.

Six people died of cholera in a hospital in the southern town of Randel, while another seven died in the western coastal town of Anse-dAinault, the officials said, likely as flood waters mixed with sewage.

Cholera causes severe diarrhoea and can kill within hours if untreated. It is spread through contaminated water and has a short incubation period, which leads to rapid outbreaks.

Hurricane Matthew left almost 900 people dead in Haiti and caused major flooding and loss of livestock.

It slammed into South Carolina on Saturday, after skirting the Atlantic coast of Florida and Georgia, causing widespread power outages and flooding.

Dr Donald Francois, head of the Haitian health ministrys cholera programme, said 62 others were sick with cholera as a result of the storm.

"We are concerned about these new outbreaks of cholera we are seeing in new districts," he told Reuters. "The situation is particularly difficult in Randel and (nearby) Port-a-Piment."

"I am on my way to the south region to assess the situation and ensure all the necessary measures are in place," he said, adding that he had heard unconfirmed reports that as many as 50 people may have died from cholera in southern Haiti.

The aid group Doctors Without Borders scrambled teams by helicopter to southern Haiti to respond to cholera cases.

Before the hurricane struck, the Central Emergency Response Fund (Cerf) released a loan of US$8 million (S$11 million) to Unicef, the United Nations Childrens' Fund, to ramp up the response to a worsening Cholera epidemic in Haiti.

"In 2016, almost 27,000 cholera cases have been reported in Haiti, and over 240 people have died. Hurricane Matthew is feared to significantly worsen the situation and increase the risk of a larger outbreak," Cerf said in a statement on Friday.