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Officials are concerned that floods triggered by Hurricane Tomas on Friday and Saturday could exacerbate the spread of the disease, which is transmitted through the consumption of fecal matter contained in contaminated water or food. The release of a dam on the Artibonite River caused the infected waterway to swell Monday, but there were no reports of major flooding.
Living conditions in Port-au-Prince's earthquake camps have "deteriorated as a result of the storm," Boston-based Partners in Health said Monday.
"Standing water, mud, lack of garbage collection, and limited sanitation availability make the camps a potential flashpoint for cholera outbreak," the group said.
Humanitarian groups and Haitian health care workers have been working in Port-au-Prince to prepare for cholera, informing residents about preventative measures such as regular hand-washing and sufficiently cooking food as well as setting up clinics in expectation that the disease would spread to the city.
The origin of the outbreak continues to be a source for debate. Analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the cholera outbreak in Haiti most closely matches a strain of the disease found in South Asia.
Public health experts, including U.N. Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti Paul Farmer, who co-founded Partners in Health, have called for an aggressive investigation into the origin of the outbreak.
They say that should include looking at the unconfirmed hypothesis that cholera was introduced by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal, a South Asian nation where the disease is endemic. Those peacekeepers are at a U.N. base on a tributary of the Artibonite River, which has been found to be contaminated with cholera.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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