Reports of a serious outbreak of cholera in Cuba; Havana says it is under control
According to the BBC a patient has been diagnosed with cholera in the Cuban capital, Havana, days after three people died in a rare outbreak in the south-eastern town of Manzanillo.
More than 50 people were infected and about 1,000 have received medical attention. The authorities say the outbreak is under control but four hospitals are prepared to isolate patients. They say people became ill after drinking water from contaminated wells. But it is not clear what the source of the cholera is.
Most of the cases were in Cuba's south-eastern Granma province, more than 750km from Havana.
Hundreds of medical professionals from that area, including nurses, have worked and continue to work with patients in Haiti, where tens of thousands of people were infected after a devastating earthquake in 2010.
But the BBC's Sarah Rainsford says that for over a week doctors in Havana have been doing the rounds of their patients, checking for symptoms of cholera.
Tests on a 60-year-old woman, admitted to hospital on Wednesday, have confirmed that she has the disease. As she was diagnosed early, doctors say she is in a stable condition.
Health officials said they had all the necessary resources to provide adequate attention to patients.
They said they had taken a series of measures, including taking samples of water and adding chlorine to purify it, to combat the outbreak.
Cholera is a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhoea and dehydration. The Health Ministry said the last reported cholera outbreak on the island was soon after the 1959 Revolution.
However the media from Miami say the number of dead is at least 14, hundreds have been sent to hospitals and there is a “lot of panic”. However security agents are trying to keep “the lid on the news”.
Unofficial reports from the region Friday indicated the disease was continuing to spread, with hundreds more suspected cases jamming hospitals in Manzanillo and Bayamo. Montoya said more cases were reported in nearby Niquero and Pilon.
As of Friday, the outbreak had killed at least 15 people and affected hundreds more, Havana independent journalist Calixto R. Martinez wrote in a report for the Miami-based blog Cafe Fuerte, or Strong Coffee.
A Manzanillo man named Enrique Piñeiro told him the death toll had surpassed 16, said Martinez, a member of the independent news agency Hablemos Press. Another man who claimed to have a relative working in a regional hospital put the death toll at 15, he added.
The journalist also wrote that Piñeiro and a hospital employee reported that doctors are signing death certificates saying that the victims died from “acute respiratory insufficiency” rather than cholera.
“We have been forbidden from using the word cholera, and there have been people arrested and detained temporarily in stations of the PNR,” the National Revolutionary Police, Piñeiro was quoted as saying. The provincial newspaper, La Demajagua, and radio stations have reported nothing on the outbreak.