Tuesday, January 15th 2013 - 22:00 UTC

Cuba admits 51 cholera cases in Havana; travel warnings from UK and US

Cuba's Public Health Ministry on Tuesday acknowledged 51 new cases of cholera in the capital Havana amid growing concerns about the illness' spread and disappointment in the diplomatic community over the government's lack of transparency.

Health authorities in Havana have started house to house inspections

The Salvador Allende hospital has an exclusive ward for cholera patients

The ministry said nobody had died from the latest outbreak, which began January 6, and stressed that preventive measures already taken had put the disease “on the way to extinction.” It said cholera was first detected in the capital's Cerro neighborhood, and then spread elsewhere. No other areas of the capital were mentioned, but there have been reports of cases in the leafy Playa neighborhood that is home to many foreign embassies.

The government has not responded to repeated requests for comment in recent months, nor has it made any experts available to talk about the cholera situation.

Cholera is a waterborne disease caused by a bacteria found in tainted water or food. It can kill within hours through dehydration, but is treatable if caught in time. Cholera is unusual in Cuba. But recent outbreaks in nearby Haiti have killed more than 7,200 people.

Last August, Cuba announced that a cholera outbreak had run its course after sickening 417 people and leaving three dead. That outbreak originated in the eastern city of Manzanillo, in Granma province. Some have speculated the epidemic gained new life following the widespread devastation caused in October by Hurricane Sandy, which damaged more than 200,000 homes in eastern Cuba.

According to Public Health sources, some hospitals are overflowing and rooms for cholera patients have been opened in several health centers. Cerro residents assured that the Muñoz Ward at the Salvador Allende Hospital is now exclusively for cholera patients.

Cerro, a municipality located in the center of the city, was the starting point and the area most affected, but the ailment was already expanding to other parts of the capital, said a doctor who preferred to remain anonymous.

The directors of several hospitals reportedly met with Civil Defense head General Ramon Pardo to coordinate actions in the face of the spread of the disease that reappeared in Cuba last year after a century of it having been eradicated.

In the affected municipalities, health care personnel are distributing three antibiotics that theoretically immunize people against cholera.

Although the presence of cholera and dengue was confirmed by health care personnel who work directly in combating both diseases it is difficult to determine its true magnitude; if these are just outbreaks in specifically localized areas, or if this can be considered an epidemic.

On Tuesday, the British Embassy in Havana issued a travel advisory in response to the cholera reports, urging its citizens to take “sensible precautions” and seek immediate medical attention for diarrhea. US diplomats on the island issued a travel warning Monday urging American citizens to follow local health recommendations.

Tourism is the top sector in Cuba's flagging Communist economy, with 2.8 million visitors a year and about 2.5 billion dollars in annual revenue. A major cholera outbreak is sure to make some visitors think twice about a trip, despite Cuba's sterling reputation in responding to epidemics and natural disasters.

The island has a well-organized civil defense system capable of rapidly mobilizing government agencies and citizens groups. Brigades of workers go door to door, noisily fumigating homes and admonishing residents to eliminate standing water where mosquitoes bearing another tropical disease, dengue, could breed.

Tuesday's Public Health Ministry statement carried in the Communist Party newspaper Granma and elsewhere made no mention of any cholera cases reported outside Havana.

25 comments Feed

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1 Gordo1 (#) Jan 15th, 2013 - 10:37 pm Report abuse
They must be careful that Chávez doesn't get contaminated!
2 JohnN (#) Jan 16th, 2013 - 12:32 am Report abuse
Oh great - Canadian tourists are the biggest proportion from a single country at almost a million visits in 2010 (vs 180,000 from UK and 60,000 from US), but NO warning yet on Canadian Travel Advisory website for Cuba: travel.gc.ca/destinations/cuba
3 Marcos Alejandro (#) Jan 16th, 2013 - 03:45 am Report abuse
I worry more buying burgers at Tesco.

4 Troy Tempest (#) Jan 16th, 2013 - 05:18 am Report abuse
@3 MA

off-topic and completely irrelevant, Troll.

Now, back to the story.
5 Marcos Alejandro (#) Jan 16th, 2013 - 05:23 am Report abuse
UVic marionette.

According to Canadian Travel Advisory MercoP. is incorrect?
6 Troy Tempest (#) Jan 16th, 2013 - 06:40 am Report abuse
How do you explain that?
7 saphira (#) Jan 16th, 2013 - 09:21 am Report abuse
Well I was thinking about trotting off to Tesco's later their prices are quite stable
8 ptolemy (#) Jan 16th, 2013 - 11:20 am Report abuse
I only wish they had a Tesco here. I'd be there now.
9 Gordo1 (#) Jan 16th, 2013 - 12:32 pm Report abuse
@ 3 Marcos Alejandro

Who buys burgers at Tesco?
10 ElaineB (#) Jan 16th, 2013 - 01:26 pm Report abuse
Horse meat is not poisonous, just culturally unacceptable in some countries. Probably why some worked its way into the meat product that came from Europe.

Horse meat will not kill you but cholera can. I fail to see the relevance to this story.

Some friends of mine were in Havana in November where there was a severe shortage of toilet paper. They were rationed to 10 sheets per day. That can't help.
11 JohnN (#) Jan 16th, 2013 - 01:51 pm Report abuse
#5 : I'm a “Uvic” (University of Victoria, British Columbia) marionette? Well, I'm proud to have spent the last part of my working life there teaching geography!

As for the cholera issue and Canadian travel advisory, apparently Canada DID issue a cholera advisory as a “health advisory” back in July 2012 - which doesn't not appear to be on there now.

However, with CBC news now reporting the magnitude of the current cholera problems, no doubt that it will twig on somebody's mind in Ottawa to post something, somewhere.

“Cuba acknowledges 51 new cases of cholera in Havana”:

Cuba's cholera outbreak prompts Canadian health advisory (12 July 2012):
12 saphira (#) Jan 16th, 2013 - 01:56 pm Report abuse
Maybe he is warning us because of where most of Europes horsemeat comes from :) en.mercopress.com/2011/05/04/argentina-leads-in-horse-meat-exports-23.880-tons-in-2010
13 Marcos Alejandro (#) Jan 17th, 2013 - 04:36 am Report abuse
12 saphira
Not exactly.

“Europe supplied horse meat in burgers
The horse meat in burgers sold by British supermarkets came from contaminated “filler” imported from Holland and Spain”


David Cameron said the retailers were ultimately responsible for the food they sold. “This is a completely unacceptable state of affairs,” he said.
Send the navy Camoron :-)))

9 Gordo1
Gordos salames like you.

11 JohnN
Marionette word was intended for someone else, sorry.
Do you know “Troy”?
Geography teacher in Canada and supporting a British colony in the Americas?
I spent one day in Beautiful Victoria long ago crossing the beautiful American continent.
14 Troy Tempest (#) Jan 17th, 2013 - 06:20 am Report abuse
“Marionette word was intended for someone else, sorry.
Do you know “Troy”?
Geography teacher in Canada and supporting a British colony in the Americas?
I spent one day in Beautiful Victoria long ago crossing the beautiful American continent.”

That's ok, “Puppet” !

It's not likely he knew me, either. I studied Geography under Hu Wallis at UBC, not UVic. Sorry.

Mark, being a Geog. Prof. , I'm sure he knows where The Falklands are, in relation to beautiful Victoria, Canada.

Being educated, and living in a country that has freedom of the press and is not influenced by Argentine propaganda, he knows the true history of the Islands and understands your claims to be provocative and false.

BTW, you are obviously an enemy of our Commonwealth of Nations. Don't abuse our hospitality by returning for another visit.

15 JohnN (#) Jan 17th, 2013 - 12:45 pm Report abuse
14 Troy Tempest:

That is a fair reflection of my position on the Falkland Islands, and its community's quest for sovereignty and security in the face of ongoing Argentine harassment .

While I might disagree with our Canadian government on other foreign policy goals, I'm pleased that our Foreign Minister Baird has been forthright in supporting Falkland Islands sovereignty and security, especially in the face of Canadian miners who see profit in supporting CFK and her Argentine regime's position

“Canada confirms Falklands self determination despite lobbying from companies operating in Argentina”:
16 Marcos Alejandro (#) Jan 18th, 2013 - 04:45 am Report abuse
“Falklands self determination”
Someone gave you an answer for that before:

“Quebequois and Inuit are surely enjoying the self-determination of that beacon of freedom that is Canada”

I will add: like the Chagossians?

Hypocrisy anyone?

Malvinas Argentinas
17 Troy Tempest (#) Jan 18th, 2013 - 05:39 am Report abuse
@16 Mark Alexander

““Falklands self determination”
Someone gave you an answer for that before”

Mark, I thought this was a thread about Cholera in a struggling economy of Cuba.

What are you on about? Diversion?

Embarrassed for some reason?

It has nothing to do with Canada, except that Canadians are at risk as tourists.
18 JohnN (#) Jan 18th, 2013 - 02:43 pm Report abuse
The issue for warning travelers who do use internet to get risk information, is how easy and obvious is this warning?

To get to the just-posted Canadian cholera warning requires 3 clicks to drill down to that warning, whereas UK warning is in bold letters near the top of Cuba info homepage.

Similar to Canada's unobtrusive Cuba cholera notice, the US obscures their concern by making viewers click on a further weblink, Recent “USINT Havana Notices for American Citizens”.

UK: www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/north-central-america/cuba

Canada's Public Health agency does assign risk levels, and assigns higher priority to protection from cholera (Level 2) than to the just-posted Dengue fever concern (Level 1).

Canada: travel.gc.ca/destinations/cuba
Public Health Canada warning:

19 Troy Tempest (#) Jan 18th, 2013 - 03:15 pm Report abuse

Thanks for those links, John.
My neighbours are going to Cuba, for the first time, next month.

I will warn them when I speak to them.

This cholera outbreak is combined with a Cuba-wide toilet paper shortage, for a lethal combination.
20 JohnN (#) Jan 18th, 2013 - 07:09 pm Report abuse
Going beyond Cuba, its interesting to see how other countries of tourism interest are addressing similar public health issues. For example, on the current WHO dengue map, Argentina appears have a dengue-ridden territory as far south as Buenos Aires region.

WHO Dengue Map - click on Dengue box to view:
21 Troy Tempest (#) Jan 18th, 2013 - 09:20 pm Report abuse
@20 John

“Going beyond Cuba, its interesting to see how other countries of tourism interest are addressing similar public health issues. For example, on the current WHO dengue map, Argentina appears have a dengue-ridden territory as far south as Buenos Aires region. ”

and yet, Argentinian authorities and Argie trolls on this site have repeatedly denied the existence of ANY Dengue, even though their neighbours on the borders have fully mobilised their health authorities to suppress it.
22 yankeeboy (#) Jan 19th, 2013 - 04:00 pm Report abuse
BTW Marcos I don't know why your are so nutty about horse meat in UK, it is sold in every grocery store in Argentina as a cold-cut/salami.

I didn't know what I was buying once and my cook told me it was horse meat even though it was with the regular salami and wasn't labeled properly. Oh well.
23 JohnN (#) Jan 19th, 2013 - 06:14 pm Report abuse
Oh well, light-skinned tourists to Cuba have probably more to fear from sun burn than from the cholera outbreak. With currently -3C in Montréal and 22C in Havana - and prospects of three more months of winter ahead, Canadians will continue to flood to Cuba even if it had a combo of Ebola virus and the Plague.

“Cholera outbreak in Cuba not keeping Canadian travellers at home”:
24 Troy Tempest (#) Jan 19th, 2013 - 09:24 pm Report abuse
Thinking about another dive trip to Cuba in March.

Do you travel there?

It's a friendly culture. I met a tourist in Varadero. He had been robbed by three men outside a hotel nightclub. They took his cash, asked which hotel he was from, and gave him back enough for cab fare.
25 JohnN (#) Jan 20th, 2013 - 01:14 am Report abuse
From Victoria, BC, its cheaper to go to México than to Cuba but many friends do enjoy holidays in Cuba. Now retired, one of my hobbies is volunteer election observing and when the first real elections come to Cuba, I'd like to go for that.

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