Haiti Facing Extraordinary Cholera Epidemic


Haiti is facing an ""unusual"" cholera epidemic that could be more severe than figures suggest, according to a French cholera expert who is advising Haitian health authorities.

And determining who is to blame for bringing the disease here won't help solve the crisis, he added.

The outbreak, which threatens to overwhelm Haiti as it struggles to recover from January's cataclysmic earthquake, has left nearly 1,200 dead and prompted riots in several cities including the capital as citizens accuse the United Nations of importing the cholera.

But doctor Gerard Chevallier, who is advising Haiti's Health Ministry, warned that the country needs to focus on trying to halt the spread of the disease detected in Haiti one month ago.

""The mechanics of the epidemic are unusual, swift and severe,"" Chevallier told AFP in an interview. ""The whole country is not affected, but the epidemic will spread.""

Officials say 1,186 people have died and nearly 20,000 people have been treated in hospital, but Chevallier noted that in such epidemics, especially in impoverished nations like Haiti, the toll is ""under-assessed"" and almost always higher than the official figure.

""Reports are imperfect. There are areas where people die and nobody knows,"" Chevallier said. ""Two thirds of the territory is accessible only on foot.""