Cholera Warning for Cuba Issued by USA

August 21, 2013 | Print Print |

The US Interests Section building in Havana. Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — The US Interests Section (USIS) in Havana has issued an alert to US citizens for a possible outbreak of cholera in Cuba, reported dpa news.

“We urge you to follow public health recommendations and guidelines, such as safe food and water precautions and frequent hand washing to help prevent cholera infection.  The Cuban Ministry of Public Health is urging people to comply with sanitary measures associated with personal hygiene, water and food,” said the diplomatic mission in a message posted today on its website.

The alert dated Tuesday but released Wednesday, said that “common sources of infection” are the intake of “untreated water, food sold by street vendors, raw fish dishes (ceviche) and shellfish inadequately cooked.”

The diplomatic mission said the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an epidemiological alert, confirming that foreign visitors including an Italian, two Venezuelans and two Chileans had contracted cholera during recent trips to Cuba.

PAHO recognizes in its report that the Cuban authorities “maintain a strict and active clinical-epidemiological monitoring of acute diarrheal diseases, studying every possible case.”

As of this publication, the Cuban authorities have not issued any information on the alert, presumably to not generate an alarm that could affect tourism, one of the main economic engines of the island, generating an estimated 2.5 billion US dollars in revenue in 2011 according to official data.

The disease was eradicated on the island since 1882, in the time of the Spanish colonial rule, until earlier this year, when the Cuban Ministry of Public Health issued a report which recognized the existence of 51 cases of cholera in Havana and several cases in the eastern provinces, noted dpa.

The US maintains a travel ban on Cuba for most citizens, but Cuban-Americans are free to travel back and forth and hundreds of thousands do each year. Some other US citizens travel to Cuba under people-to-people licensing and still others travel illegally through third countries.

 

 


What's your opinion?

  • CUBAQUS

    Cuba has had cases of cholera for over a year now. The latest infection was most likely imported from Haiti. Reports started coming out in June 2012 from independent journalists. Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, one of the independent journalists that broke the story, was arrested and in jail for 7 months. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations adopted him and demanded his release. He was released in April.

    In the mean time the Cuban regime continues to hide the true extent of the epidemic reporting cases of cholera as cases of “acute diarrheic diseases” in the press and on radio Sancti Spiritus if reporting them at all.

    “The government of Cuba has not been particularly transparent about the ongoing cholera in the island,” said a post in ProMED, a website started by the Federation of American Scientists to disseminate information on outbreaks of infectious diseases.

    The spread of cholera in Cuba and the number of deaths have not been reported by the Cuban regime. It is the independent press that has provided nearly all of the data. Even priests have been reported to warn the people from the pulpit.

    In the mean time cases were reported in Venezuela, Chile and Italy in people returning from Cuba.

    Cuba is – as it did with the dengue epidemic in Santiago in 1997 – trying to hide the true extent of the problem to protect its tourist industry.

    Just like dengue cholera has taken root in Cuba and is endemic by now. Bad hygiene due to exorbitant cost of cleaning products, contaminated water sources, overflowing sewers, puddles of contaminated water in badly maintained roads, contaminated rivers and even beaches with fetal matter, … all contribute to the spread of the disease.

    For more on cholera and dengue in Cuba see:
    http://cubacolera.impela.net/
    http://cubadengue.impela.net/

    • DC1945

      The USINT is NOT recommending that people avoid traveling to Cuba — just take reasonable precautions that I think you would be well-advised whenever travelling to the tropics. From the text of their advisory:

      “Contaminated food or water is the main risk factor. Unsterilized water, food from street vendors, raw fish dishes (e.g. ceviche) and inadequately cooked (e.g. steamed) shellfish. We urge you to follow public health recommendations and guidelines, such as safe food and water precautions and frequent hand washing to help prevent cholera infection. The Cuban Ministry of Public Health is urging people to comply with sanitary measures associated with personal hygiene, water and food.”

      http://photos.state.gov/libraries/havana/662225/pdf-english/Cholera-Outbreak-08-20-13.pdf

      Not much grist for your mill there, I’m afraid. Stick to hotel fare, and I would think the risk for most tourists is pretty much zero wherever you go in Cuba.

      Note that the independent, Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control currently has no Travel Health Notice in effect for Cuba.

      http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/cuba#travel-notices

      On cholera cases in Cuba, a Canadian government website reports that “most travelers are at low risk.” No suggestion that travel to Cuba be avoided.

      http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/notices-avis/notices-avis-eng.php?id=111

      The Pan-American Health Organizations (WHO) reports:

      “In Cuba, authorities maintain active and strict clinical-epidemiological surveillance of acute diarrheal diseases, studying every suspected case.”

      http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=22575&Itemid=

      From a notice in the Cuban newspaper Granma (auto-translation by Google):

      INFORMATION NOTE TO THE PUBLIC

      The Ministry of Health reports that as of Sunday January 6 [2013] the clinical epidemiological surveillance system detected an increase in diarrheal diseases in Cerro municipality and later in other municipalities in the capital. A group of these patients had symptoms and signs that guided etiologically to suspected Cholera, leading to activation of the measures envisaged in the plan anti-cholera, its achievement have all the necessary means and resources.

      Microbiological analysis conducted by the Institute of Tropical Medicine “Pedro Kouri”, determined that the causative agent is Vibrio cholerae O1 serotype Ogawa enterotoxigenic Tor, being confirmed to date 51 cases.

      According to assessments conducted epidemiological transmission generated by a food dispenser, asymptomatic carrier of the disease, acquired during outbreaks previously reported in other regions of the country.

      As a result of action taken is in the transmission extinction phase. This was possible, first, by the vigilance and responsiveness of our health system.

      It reiterates the need for increased hygienic measures, especially those related to handwashing, ingestion of chlorinated water, cleaning and cooking of food, these essential aspects in health care.

      http://www.granma.co.cu/2013/01/15/nacional/artic09.html

      So much for your increasingly desperate conspiracy theories! I have been asking you for years now for any proof from any international public health authority that the health of travelers or residents in Cuba have ever in any way been jeopardized by any actions of the Cuban government in response to the outbreak of any infectious diseases. Care to try again? (Forget the links to your silly little copy-and-paste websites!)

      As for the outbreak of dengue in 1997, 15 years later the official report from the Cuban health authorities remains online at the CDC’s website for medical researchers, no doubt, as an exemplar.

      http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/4/1/98-0111_article.htm

      The same year it was published (1998), the World Health Organization awarded Fidel the Health-For-All gold medal for Cuba’s advances in health care. To this day, it seems no one outside your tiny circle of fanatical Cuba haters is buying into your wacky conspiracy theories. Must be frustrating as hell for you!

      • Griffin

        It seems most likely that the cholera now in Cuba was brought to the island from Haiti by the returning medical teams Cuba sent to their neighbour following the devastating earthquake and hurricane a few years ago. This is a tragic example of the old adage, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

        I don’t know what the Canadian in authorities are saying today, but during the cholera outbreak last year they did issue travel advisories about cholera in Cuba and urged tourists to be very careful.

        Also last year, Cuban journalists reported on the negative effects of the secrecy Cuban officials had attempted to construct around the outbreak. Writers here at HT even wrote about it. You may disagree with their opinions, but it was an issue.

        Please keep in mind, we are not “Cuba haters”. We are Castro haters. There is a difference: Castro is not the same thing as Cuba. We love Cuba and the Cuban people.

        • DC1945

          If they don’t respond with press releases at the first rumour, it is my impression Cuban health authorities will nevertheless spring into action at the very first indication of a problem, advising every resident and those passing through the area affected to take precautions. My guess is that the 5 travelers in question or their hosts chose to ignore the warnings — 5 travelers out of perhaps tens of thousands on the island at the time.

          Note that not even the USINT is advising against traveling to Cuba. Neither is the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Neither is the Canadian government. (links above)

          (In my opinion, anyone who supports the genocidal US embargo targeting every man, woman and child on the island, as does my friend here, is a Cuba-hater. They hate the Cuban people.)

          • Griffin

            The Cuba health authorities are indeed working to stem the cholera outbreak. The problem is that in addition to the necessary public health measures, there is a reflexive tendency toward secrecy and denial which undermines public health.

            (In my opinion, anyone who supports the genocidal Castro dictatorship targeting every man, woman and child on the island, as do you, is a Cuba-hater. They hate the Cuban people.)

          • DC1945

            There can be no doubt that the Cuban government would never allow travelers (foreign or domestic) to enter an area that posed a significant health risk. Your pal here has been trying for years to cite even a single example to the contrary, but has come up empty-handed every time.

            (As for your beloved embargo, Amnesty International has reported:

            “The RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED BY THE EMBARGO help to deprive Cuba of vital access to medicines, new scientific and medical technology, food, chemical water treatment and electricity…

            “The US embargo against Cuba is IMMORAL and should be lifted. It’s preventing millions of Cubans from benefiting from vital medicines and medical equipment essential for their health.”

            In anyone else’s book, but yours perhaps, this is genocide. Yes, even if the victims are “only Cubans.”

            And for 20 years in a row, the overwhelming majority of the UN General Assembly, including your closest allies, have voted every year to condemn these cruel and inhumane sanctions and call for their immediate and unconditional lifting.

            Makes you proud, don’t it, Mr. Cuba-Hater?)

          • Griffin

            Whatever the topic, you find a way to slip in your boilerplate embargo propaganda.

            I will counter with a concise summary of Fidel’s crimes against the Cuban people:

            1. Fidel Castro’s firing squads in Cuba
            2. Fidel Castro ordered the sinking of the 13 de Marzo tugboat killing Cuban women and children
            3. Fidel Castro’s order to shoot down an American civilian aircraft killing 4 people including 3 American citizens
            4. Fidel Castro’s thousands of Cuban political prisoners
            5. Fidel Castro’s Cuban forced labor camps, the UMAPs
            6. Fidel Castro’s religious repression against Cubans
            7. Fidel Castro separates Cuban families
            8. Fidel Castro restricts the movement of Cubans
            9. Fidel Castro’s foreign interventions resulting in thousands of deaths
            10. Fidel Castro’s espionage inside and outside of Cuba

            11. Fidel’s letter to Khrushchev demanding that he start a nuclear war with America.

          • DC1945

            So, these are your rationalizations for the US killing of Cuban children?

            But I see that not even a die-hard apologist like you can deny Amnesty International’s charges that your beloved embargo is used to help deprive Cuban children (among others) of “vital access to medicines, new scientific and medical technology, food, chemical water treatment and electricity.”

          • Griffin

            I do not rationalize the US policy or excuse their crimes against Cuba. I do point out that the brutal Castro dictatorship is not the socialist utopia you imagine. The wickedness of the US foreign policy does not make Cuba any nicer.

            It is you who rationalize the oppression of the Cuban people by the totalitarian state by blaming the US for everything.

          • DC1945

            What you call “oppression” is what I call a legitimate response to relentless US aggression for over half a century.

            End the criminal US embargo and the massive US bankrolling of subversion on the island and there would be no need to so closely monitor so-called “dissidents.” (To paraphrase former USINT chief, Jonanthan Farrar’s top secret report, these “dissidents” for the most part are nothing more than money-grubbing losers who couldn’t get elected dog-catchers! See WikiLeaks.)

            And while complaining seems to be something of a national sport in Cuba, in one national vote after another, Cubans have overwhelmingly endorsed the government, its institutions and its aggressive stance on US imperialism.

            Elections in Cuba are as democratic as anywhere else, perhaps more so since every national vote amounts to a referendum on the Revolutionary state itself. Given a chance to register a secret protest vote, less than 5% chose to do so in national elections held earlier this year.

            (See my previous postings on these topics at Disqus.)

          • Brrr

            You accuse DC 1945 of propaganda, then counter with THAT? Irony at it’s finest folks.

          • CUBAQUS

            There can be no doubt that the government has allowed travelers to enter including foreigners to enter areas that posed a significant health risk.

            Posted on Monday, 08.26.13
            “Cuba reports more cholera among foreign visitors “, MiamiHerald.com
            http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/26/v-fullstory/3587434/cuba-reports-more-cholera-among.html

            Thank you for again showing your utter disregard for the Cuban people that live in the areas that pose a significant health risk.

          • DC1945

            Desperately grasping at straws as always, I see.

            No one, not the US Interests Section in Havana, not the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, and not the Canadian government is advising travelers to avoid travel to Cuba or to any part of it. At most, they are advising travelers to take some simple precautions that, I would think, most regular travelers to the tropics would instinctively follow at all times (see above).

            The independent, US-based CDC still has no travel notice in effect for Cuba for cholera, or for any other reason.

            http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/cuba#travel-notices

            But even for the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where thousands have died of cholera, the CDC has travel notices warning of ongoing cholera outbreaks there, but does NOT advise travelers to avoid even these countries or any parts of them, but simply to “practice usual precautions.”

            Dominican Republic:
            http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/dominican-republic#travel-notices

            Haiti:
            http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/haiti#travel-notices

            So, the CDC does not see an ongoing cholera outbreak in these two countries as a significant enough health risk to advise against travel to these countries or any part of them. Once again, we see what a truly desperate liar you are, my friend. When will you learn?

          • CUBAQUS

            I am not the one grasping at any straws, You are.

            It clear, from the article I linked to that the government indeed “has allowed travelers to enter including foreigners to enter areas that posed a significant health risk”.

            From the article I quoted:
            “Havana reported that a total of 12 foreign tourists and 151 Cubans have come down with cholera in recent months – though Gómez says his hospital ward alone had six to 15 foreigners on every one of the six days that he spent there.”
            http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/26/v-fullstory/3587434/cuba-reports-more-cholera-among.html

            This clearly confirms that cholera is widespread and that even Cuba recent “candor” on the disease is grossly under-reporting the extent of the epidemic.

            “The Havana report on cholera, the second in August alone, seemed to hint at a growing transparency by Cuban officials who previously kept quiet about the disease in a bid to avoid damaging the island’s $2.5 billion-a-year tourism industry, experts said.”

            In short: experts confirm what I said, Dan Christensen.

            Paho confirmed tourists have indeed been exposed: three from Italy, two each from Germany, Spain, Chile and Venezuela and one from the Netherlands are already known for certain.

            Cuba has issued a cholera warning:
            “Cuba issues alert on cholera outbreak”, 26 August, 2013,
            http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2013/08/26/Cuba-issues-alert-on-cholera-outbreak/

            For more see:
            http://cubacolera.impela.net/

          • http://agriculturacuba.impela.net/ Ernesto Gonzalez

            You really should keep up with the news.
            It confirms all you try to deny.

            “Cuba reports 163 new cholera cases”
            http://news.yahoo.com/cuba-reports-163-cholera-cases-192822468.html;_ylt=A2KJ3CfSxR1S_jYAwFjQtDMD