Cuba Silent as Doctors Fight Rare Cholera Outbreak on Island

Cuba’s government has given little information about a rare outbreak of cholera, fueling speculation that the epidemic may be worse than initially reported last week.

The World Health Organization, which has an office in Havana to alert governments of public health problems on the island, received a notice from Cuban authorities on July 3 documenting 53 cases of cholera and three deaths, said Donna Eberwine-Villagran, a spokeswoman for the Geneva-based group.

“We haven’t received any further updates,” Eberwine- Villargran said in a phone interview today.

The Cuban government, which touts the achievements of its public health system and sends teams of doctors to aid allies across Latin America, announced in state-run media on July 3 that the disease had been brought under control after it was discovered in the western province of Granma.

The Cuban exile-blog Cafe Fuerte reported July 9 that there may be 85 cases of cholera, citing comments made by a doctor on a local television station in Granma.

Officials at the Health Ministry and the Pedro Kouri Institute, which studies disease outbreaks, didn’t respond to calls and emails from Bloomberg News.

Door-to-Door Visits

Doctors and nurses are going door-to-door in cities including Manzanillo to screen for symptoms and hospitals have been equipped to quarantine patients, said Conner Gorry, editor of Medicc Review, an Oakland-based medical journal focusing on Cuban health care.

“Although cholera came as a surprise, the country is well prepared,” Gorry said in an e-mail from Havana.

The first cases of cholera were discovered in Cuba around 1833 and there have been only sporadic outbreaks of the disease on the island since, according to a study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases last year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Sabo in Panama City at esabo1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net

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