Tag Archives: epidemics

Haiti: Twitter data accurately tracked cholera outbreak

Twitter messages were providing data that would have been a quicker way of detecting and tracking the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti than traditional methods, according to a study [1] published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

The study found that online social media and news feeds were faster than, and broadly as accurate as, the official records at detecting the start and early progress of the epidemic, which hit Haiti after the earthquake in January 2010 and has killed more than 6,500 people.


The authors used HealthMap, an automated surveillance platform, to measure the volume of news media generated during the first 100 days of the outbreak, and they also looked at the number of ‘cholera’ posts on Twitter.

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Haiti: UN panel reports on source of cholera outbreak

The cholera outbreak that has so far killed 4,888 people in Haiti was caused by a strain “very similar but not identical” to current South Asian strains, a UN independent panel of experts said. The source of the outbreak was due to contamination of the Meye Tributary of the Artibonite River, used by tens of thousands of people for washing, bathing, and drinking.

Anti-UN protests in Haiti

Many people in Haiti blamed the epidemic on UN peacekeepers from Nepal, who had been accused of poor sanitation at their base near Mirebalais, the town where the epidemic first began. In November 2010, this led to violent protests against the UN peacekeeping forces. Others believed that the outbreak was linked to voodoo. More than 50 voodoo followers have been killed since the outbreak of cholera following accusations that they spread the disease with occult power. However, the U.N. panel declined to point the finger at any single group for the outbreak, saying it was the result of a “confluence of circumstances”.

“The introduction of this cholera strain as a result of environmental contamination with faeces could not have been the source of such an outbreak without simultaneous water and sanitation and health-care system deficiencies,” the report concludes.

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Haiti: disease model predicts more cholera and potential impact of clean water

The number of Haitians infected with cholera may reach 779,000 by the end of November 2011, nearly twice as many as UN estimates, according to a new study [1].

The UN estimate is “essentially a guess, based on no data, and ignoring the dynamics of cholera epidemics” co-author Dr. Jason Andrews told SciDev.Net.

Using a mathematical model of the epidemic, the study projects 779 000 cases of cholera and 11,100 deaths between March 1 and November 30, 2011, if there are no new interventions to curb transmission and treat victims.

The researchers estimate that 170,000 cases of cholera and 3,400 deaths could be averted by a combination of clean water, vaccination and greater distribution of antibiotics.

A 1% per week reduction in consumption of contaminated water would the greatest effect by averting 105,000 cholera cases and 1,500 deaths. Vaccination of 10% of the population would avert 63,000 cases and 900 deaths. The extension of the use of antibiotics to all patients with severe dehydration and half of patients with moderate dehydration would avert 9,000 cases and 1,300 deaths.

Andrews told SciDev.Net that the interventions could be achieved if the international community was willing to invest in them.

But Marcos Espinal, head of health surveillance, disease prevention and control at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), defended the UN’s approach. He told SciDev.Net that “the model used up to now is consistent with reality. We have seen just over 250,000 people with cholera in six months”.

A cholera epidemic broke out in Haiti in late October 2010, in the wake of the earthquake in January of the same year. The latest UN figures for the epidemic, published on 31 March 2011, are 267,224 cases, 4,749 deaths and a mortality rate of 1,8%.

[1] Andrews, J.R. and Basu, S. (2011). Transmission dynamics and control of cholera in Haiti : an epidemic model. The Lancet, 16 March 2011 (Article in Press). DOI: (free registration is required to view this article)

Source: María Elena Hurtado, SciDev.Net, 28 March 2011

Haiti: hygiene promotion is key to preventing nationwide cholera epidemic, says Save the Children as death toll passes 900

As the death toll from Haiti’s cholera epidemic reached 917 on 12 November 2010, Save the Children says the best way to reduce the disease’s spread is to arm people with information and supplies to improve hygienic practices.

Cholera has reached the capital Port-au-Prince, where 27 deaths have been recorded and over 1.3 million earthquake survivors living in tent camps are at risk. Throughout the country 14,600 cholera victims have been hospitalised.

The United Nations forecasts up to 200,000 Haitians could contract cholera as the outbreak extends across the country of nearly 10 million, and says $163.9 million in aid is needed over the next year to combat the epidemic.

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Haiti: cholera toll tops 200, all affected families to receive WASH packages

People receive rehydration serum in the parking lot of the St. Nicholas hospital in Saint Marc, Haiti. (Dieu Nalio Chery/Associated Press)

The number of deaths in Haiti’s cholera outbreak has risen to 208 and the number of confirmed cases to 2,646 in the Artibonite and Central departments. There were five confirmed cases of cholera in the capital Port-au-Prince.

Humanitarian organisations working in the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) sector have agreed to distribute WASH supplies for 100 per cent of affected households. The package for a family of 5 for one week will contain 5 bars of soap, water purification tablets to ensure 40 liters of water per day per family, and 10 rehydration salt sachets. The WASH Cluster is collaborating with the Haitian water and sanitation directorate (DINEPA).

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Cholera under-reported, infects millions a year – WHO

Cholera infects millions of people each year, 10 times the number of cases reported by countries who fear losing tourist or trade income by acknowledging the real scale of an outbreak, experts said

Claire-Lise Chaignat, cholera coordinator at the World Health Organisation, said [in the Feb 2009 issue of WHO Bulletin] the diarrhoeal disease that is spreading fast in Zimbabwe is also under-reported because the stigma attached to it means people often fail to seek treatment.

[…] In 2007, governments reported just 178,000 cases of cholera, which is spread mostly through contaminated food and water. According to Chaignat, about 120,000 people most likely died of cholera that year, compared to the 4,031 official toll reported to the WHO.

Angola, Sudan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Liberia, South Africa and Madagascar have all had large outbreaks in the past decade, and Iraq had more than 4,000 cases last year.

[…] WHO disease control expert Francesco Checchi said: “Unfortunately, the cholera epidemic [in Zimbabwe] has struck at a time when most Zimbabweans are unable to purchase salt and sugar [needed for oral rehydration solutions (ORS)]”.

[…] Major hotspots for cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases include Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and much of Africa.

Source: Laura MacInnis, Reuters, 02 Feb 2009

Nepal: Government prepares for possible diarrhoea epidemic

Health workers at Nepal’s Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) in the Department of Health Services (DHS), are making preparations to control a diarrhoea outbreak, which occurs during the annual monsoon season between July and September in rural areas.

Rapid Response Teams (RRT) have been formed at the central, regional and district level and more than 50 emergency health kits, provided by WHO, have been placed in strategic locations.


A 12-hour hotline has also been established at the EDCD to provide emergency response if the health offices at the district level are unable to cope. If needed, the hotline will be turned into a 24-hour service.


Although only 13 dead were recorded in hospitals over the past 23 weeks, the death rate could be much higher as access to health services in the most remote areas is very limited. In 2007, there were about 33,746 reported cases of diarrhoea, with 250 deaths. […]. In the first six months of 2008, the EDCD reported 7,532 cases of diarrhoea.


Although diarrhoea is prevalent throughout the year due to poor hygiene practices, unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation, the situation is particularly bad during the annual monsoon period when floods and landslides damage water systems and contaminate drinking water.


A two-day orientation programme on”Communication on Outbreaks for Journalists” was held in Biratnagar, Birgunj, Pokhara and Bhaktapur.

UNICEF has also given a commitment for an additional stock of medicine and water purification chemicals to the EDCD.

Source: IRIN, 22 Jul 2008 ; The Rising Nepal / NGO Forum, 22 Jul 2008