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Take Precautions Against Cholera if Headed to Haiti: CDC

Simple steps can help shield against the potentially deadly disease

MONDAY, Dec. 20, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- People traveling to Haiti or the Dominican Republic over the holidays should take steps to protect themselves from cholera, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a bulletin issued Monday.

Cholera, which is contracted by consuming contaminated water or food, can be deadly without proper care. Treatment includes oral rehydration, salts and antibiotics.

Haiti has been in the grip of an ongoing outbreak of cholera that began in mid-October. On Sunday, the Haitian health ministry announced that the death toll had surpassed 2,500 people, Agence-France Presse reported. Neighboring Dominican Republic has also been affected by the outbreak but "to a limited degree," the CDC said.

The CDC is now offering travelers to Haiti and the Dominican Republic tips for preventing cholera and treating it should the disease arise.

When packing for your trip, include water purification tablets and oral rehydration salts. Both products can be purchased at major retailers as well as sports and outdoors stores.

When you are in Haiti or the Dominican Republic, use only safe water for drinking, preparing foods and beverages, brushing teeth, and washing hands. Safe water includes water that has been boiled or treated with water purification tablets or chlorine, and bottled water with unbroken seals. Canned/bottled carbonated beverages are also safe to drink and use, says the CDC.

You should also:

  • Make sure food is thoroughly cooked and served hot.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and safe water, or use 62 percent alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Wash yourself, your children, diapers and clothes away from drinking water sources.

If you develop watery diarrhea (a sign of cholera) while on your trip, you should start drinking safe water mixed with oral rehydration salts immediately. Sip the solution every few minutes as long as the diarrhea persists. Go to a clinic right away.

If you don't have oral rehydration salts, sip safe water. Seek out medical care and oral rehydration salts immediately, the CDC advises.

If you develop watery diarrhea within 10 days of returning from Haiti or the Dominican Republic, seek medical care and tell your doctor or health-care provider that you have been in a country where there is cholera. Do not travel again until you are well.

More information

The World Health Organization has more about cholera.

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Dec. 20, 2010
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