Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cuban government stays mum on new cholera reports

Cuban government stays mum on new cholera reports
Juan O. Tamayo | The Miami Herald

MIAMI — Four weeks after the Cuban government announced that an outbreak
of cholera in the eastern part of the island was over, there are
unconfirmed reports of new cases popping up in two small towns.

Twenty-seven cases were reported in the municipality of San Luis, in the
eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, and 19 more in the Bahia Honda
municipality 35 miles west of Havana.

Roberto Gonzalez, a dissident living in San Luis, said that area public
health workers and residents have told him of the more than two dozen
confirmed cases and 102 suspected cases of cholera in the municipality
over the past two weeks.

Gonzalez said that on Tuesday he saw police checking IDs on municipal
roads to keep out non-residents and barring all access to the Eliseo
Reyes clinic in the village of Chile. Tanker trucks were delivering
water to areas where the aqueduct has been shut down.

The Cuban government has not publicly acknowledged any new cholera cases
since Aug. 28, when it declared that an epidemic focused in the eastern
city of Manzanillo had ended with a final tally of three deaths and 417
confirmed cases.

Government officials provided little information during that two-month
long outbreak of cholera, Cuba's first in many decades. They confirmed
it only after independent journalists and dissidents began reporting on
the epidemic.

Part of the hospital in San Luis also has been turned into an isolation
facility, and some of the more serious cases were sent to a hospital in
the provincial capital, Santiago de Cuba, he told The Miami Herald by

Authorities also have readied a nearby school to accept more cases,
added Gonzalez, a member of the dissident Cuban Patriotic Union.

Independent journalist Moises Leonardo Rodriguez, a resident of the port
of Cabanas adjoining Bahia Honda, said neighbors and nurses told him of
19 cholera cases in that area, including the death of a 65-year-old woman.

Two public health employees wearing masks told his daughter last week to
stay away from the Cabanas clinic because it was treating cholera
patients, Rodriguez told the Herald by telephone.

He added that other public health workers told him a government
epidemiologist had instructed them on how to canvas Bahia Honda
residents for symptoms of cholera, like diarrhea and vomiting, but told
them never to use the word cholera.

Some work places in Cabanas have distributed water purification tables,
Rodriguez reported, and residents were told Monday that a 10-day ban on
fishing in local waters had been lifted.

Cholera bacteria are most often spread in contaminated water. In the
Manzanillo outbreak, public health officials said heavy rains in June
flooded latrines, which in turn contaminated some of the area's wells.
Most Bahia Honda homes have latrines and get their water from a nearby
dam, Rodriguez said.

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