Cholera in Haiti Traced to First Patient
The Hatian cholera outbreak likely began with a mentally ill man who bathed in and drank from a contaminated river, a Boston humanitarian group helping control the crisis said Monday. According to ABC News, Partners in Health came to their conjecture after performing a study on the outbreak that killed 7,000 people since it began in 2010.
Cholera first appeared in Haiti just months after a devastating earthquake rocked the country in January 2010. Since then, nearly 500,000 people have fallen ill and 7,000 have lost their lives. Now, officials believe the infection began with a 28-year-old mentally ill man from the town of Mirebalais.
Study co-author David Walton said the man often bathed in and drank from the nearby Meye River despite having access to clean drinking water. The outbreak of cholera, a waterborne disease, had already been linked with the Meye River, ABC noted.
The man, whose hallucinations and paranoia went untreated, fell ill with acute diarrhea on October 12, 2010 and died less than 24 hours later at his home. He did not seek medical attention for his illness. Two people who helped prepare his body for burial then fell ill with cholera in less than 48 hours.
“It’s a striking example of how mental health, infectious disease and community health affects overall well-being,” Walton said.
The study also went on to point out how increasing globalization can facilitate the spreading of disease. In this case, cholera was also observed in other parts of the Caribbean, such as the neighboring Dominican Republic, Miami and Boston.
Haiti now has the world’s highest cholera infection rate, Partners in Health said.