Cholera Death Toll Near 300 In Haiti

The death toll from Haiti's cholera outbreak has risen to 292, the Haitian government said Wednesday. There are 4,147 confirmed cases.

Crucial to curbing the crisis are education, more primary care centers and a network of cholera treatment centers, said Jon K. Andrus, deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization.

The 1991 cholera epidemic did not reach Haiti and many other Western Hemisphere countries, Andrus said, indicating citizens thus did not learn about crucial sanitation measures.

""We are seeing a very rapid, very explosive outbreak with a very steep academic [learning] curve,"" Andrus said during a conference call Wednesday.

Health aides are in Haitian camps, educating people about proper food, water and waste treatment, he said. Oral rehydration salts are saving lives, he added. The goal is to provide 24-hours-a-day medical care, Andrus said.

""It will take some months to turn the tide,"" he said, indicating health officials can expect cholera cases in Haiti for the next several years.

Although there are no confirmed cases in neighboring Dominican Republic, health officials are there to help it prepare for likely cases.

Calling Haiti's cholera outbreak ""an extremely serious situation,"" a United Nations official expressed concern Monday that the infectious disease could spread and grow to ""tens of thousands of cases.""

""It would be irresponsible to plan for anything but a considerably wider outbreak,"" said Nigel Fisher, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Haiti."