There’s a big outbreak of cholera in Haiti, and health officials are working with international agencies to control the outbreak. Cholera causes severe watery diarrhea and can spread easily from person to person through contaminated food and water. The diarrhea caused by cholera results in loss of body fluids, which can cause severe dehydration and, without treatment, can kill. The best treatment for cholera is a fluid known as oral rehydration solution that replaces body fluids and salts. Outbreaks are common in areas with crowded living conditions and in communities with poor sanitation programs. However, outbreaks of cholera can also occur after major disasters that disrupt the public health infrastructure.
Arizona hasn’t had any locally transmitted cholera cases in decades. If you ever travel to a country with cholera, one of the best ways to prevent it is to be sure that you’re drinking clean water. Boiling or filtering water will prevent the spread of cholera. Another great way to prevent numerous diseases, including cholera, is to wash your hands with soap and water. In areas with disrupted sanitation services (as is the case in Haiti), it’s important to be sure that water sources don’t become contaminated with fecal matter (easier said than done in a makeshift camp). To help stop the spread, individuals should bathe and wash clothes in separate areas from drinking water and food preparation. Latrines or toilets should be built away from all bodies of water. It’s also important to cook your foods thoroughly. You can read more about the outbreak in Haiti on the CDC’s special website.