PIH Doctors Call for Changes in Efforts to Slow the Haitian Cholera Outbreak
Drs. Paul Farmer, Louise Ivers and Fernet Léandre Call for a Change in Strategy and Increased Resources to Slow Cholera Outbreak in Haiti and Beyond in Press Conference Today
For Immediate Release
Friday, December 10
Article published in The Lancet calls for five specific interventions
BOSTON – Dr. Paul Farmer, a co-founder of Partners In Health (PIH) and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Louise Ivers, PIH’s Chief of Mission in Haiti and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Dr Fernet Léandre of PIH’s Haitian partner organization, Zanmi Lasante, hosted a press conference call today to discuss the cholera outbreak in Haiti and call for a more aggressive and comprehensive strategy to combat the disease.
Listen to a recording of the December 10 media call on the player below:
Please see below for key quotes from the press call:
Treatment of Cholera Outbreak with Antibiotics and Vaccine: “We wrote this piece in an effort to improve the quality of discussion about what could and should be doing in Haiti to slow down the cholera outbreak. We want to raise the bar. In our view, treatment of cholera in Haiti must be much more aggressive – more specifically, rehydration alone without antibiotics is not adequate for even moderate cases of cholera. We are arguing for antibiotics for all who are showing cholera symptoms. It is important that we bring a vaccine into the mix as a complimentary tool as well,” said Dr. Paul Farmer.
Availability of Vaccine: “Based on our discussions with experts, there are potentially 2 million doses of the cholera vaccine available. In the face of a regional, long-standing epidemic, it does not seem too much to ask to start ramping up that effort to make available significantly more doses of vaccines. I would have expected more engagement on some of these tough logistic questions – how do we have the vaccine, how do we distribute it, make it more available, etc,” said Dr. Paul Farmer.
Status of Cholera Outbreak in the IDP Camps: “We are providing health care in three camps for internally displaced people in Port-au-Prince, including one of the largest camps, Parc Jean-Marie Vincent, with more than 51,000 people. We started to see sporadic cases turn up in this camp as Hurricane Tomas passed but now we are seeing a steady stream of patients and we’ve established a 50-bed cholera treatment unit (CTU). Interestingly, many of the patients are coming from outside of the camps, from the neighboring slums. The water and sanitation situation in the camps remains dire; in Parc Jean-Marie Vincent there are 200 latrines for 51,000 people, which means the vast majority of people are using buckets or just an open area in the corner of the camp and there remains a very high risk of the further spread of the disease in the camps and elsewhere,” said Dr. Louise Ivers.
Challenge of Cholera Outbreak in Remote Rural Communities: “We are seeing more and more cases in mountain areas, remote areas where it can often take more than 10 hours to reach them. People in these communities lack access to health care, to clean water and sanitation. They cannot be reached by ambulances. The key to reaching them is strengthening the network of community health workers, who have enormous solidarity value in responding to an outbreak of a stigmatized disease and educating communities on water, sanitation, and prevention. It is very important to reinforce water and sanitation in rural areas, besides building latrines to discourage people from dr