November 10, 2016

Haiti Launches Largest-Ever Cholera Vaccination Campaign

This post originally appeared on Goats and Soda.

Haiti on Tuesday launched the largest emergency cholera vaccination campaign ever attempted. The plan is to try to vaccinate 800,000 people in parts of the country devastated by Hurricane Matthew.

Immediately after the Category 4 storm tore across southwest Haiti last month, the number of reported cholera cases across the country shot up dramatically. In some storm-ravaged areas it jumped tenfold.

Nationwide, the number of new cases went from roughly 75 a day to well over 200.

To try to slow this surge in cholera, the Haitian Ministry of Health and international aid groups plan to vaccinate almost everyone over the age of 1 in southwest Haiti. Cholera is a potentially fatal water-borne disease that can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration.

This will be a huge logistical challenge. The vaccine needs to be kept between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit up until the day it is administered. Some towns and villages in this part of the country were totally destroyed by the hurricane. Roads were damaged and electrical power lines snapped.

“There is still a population that is extremely difficult to reach,” says Jean-Luc Poncelet, the World Health Organization’s representative in Haiti, about some areas that remain inaccessible by road. “That will continue unfortunately for a little while. Road access will remain complicated because those roads were already bad before the hurricane.”

Normally the oral cholera vaccine is given as two doses spaced at least two weeks apart.

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