Concern grows over Cuba cholera outbreak
Fla. Dept. of Health responds to Ros-Lehtinen statement
Authorities in eastern Cuba are in full prevention mode to contain a rare cholera outbreak amid fears that it may have spread to the capital, distributing chlorine and water purification drops and quarantining hospital patients with diarrhea until they are checked for the disease.
The precautions follow last week's announcement of three deaths and 53 diagnosed cases of the waterborne disease, which hadn't been seen in Cuba for many years. Cholera can kill quickly through dehydration but is easily treatable if caught in time. A Health Ministry bulletin said the outbreak was under control.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a staunch anti-Castro congresswoman from Florida, accused the Cuban government of withholding information to avoid scaring away tourists.
"The outbreak of cholera in Cuba, compounded with an outbreak of Dengue fever, has the potential of turning into a serious health crisis for the Cuban people," U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in statement issued on Wednesday morning.
The Cuban government has not responded to requests for comment on reports that several cases have been found in Havana, nor has it followed up last week's announcement with more information, fueling rumors and contradictory stories.
"And where is the dictator Castro as his countrymen battle this outbreak? Far away from Cuba visiting with other communist allies China and Vietnam and up next is a meeting with the Russian autocrat Putin," said Ros-Lehtinen. "As Castro roams the sumptuous and gilded halls of the Kremlin, thousands of miles away the Cuban nation is subjected to further hardships and sacrifices."
In response to the congresswoman's statement, the Florida Department of Health issued the following statement:
"In light of recent reports of the cholera outbreak in Cuba, I want to assure Floridians of their safety and the surveillance and prevention efforts of the Florida Department of Health," wrote Deputy Secretary for Health Dr. Steven Harris. "The potential for spread of cholera in Florida is extremely low because our water, sanitation, and food systems minimize the risk for contaminated food and water, and person-to-person transmission is rare. There have been no outbreaks of cholera in Florida in recent memory. Over the last two years, there have only been 15 cases of cholera in Florida residents and those resulted from travel to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. If traveling to countries where cholera activity is occurring, please take appropriate precautions to avoid transmission. This includes drinking bottled water, washing hands with soap and clean water, using latrines and cooking food thoroughly. If you develop watery diarrhea after traveling to cholera active countries you should seek medical attention. Cholera is simple to treat if it is recognized early. Our Department will continue to monitor and test at-risk populations to ensure the safety of our residents."
The Centers for Disease Control has comprehensive cholera information available for travelers at http://www.cdc.gov/cholera/prevention.html.
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