Second Strain of Cholera Identified In Haiti Originated Locally

U.S. researchers have linked a second strain of cholera to the epidemic that decimated the Haitian population in 2010-11. Previous studies have suggested that the epidemic was caused by bacteria inadvertently introduced by Nepalese soldiers who came to assist in recovery from a massive earthquake. The new strain appears to be local in origin, but its role in the epidemic is not clear because this strain does not normally produce epidemics.

Haiti suffered a devastating magnitude 7 earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, followed by about 52 aftershocks with a magnitude of 4.5 or higher. Estimates indicate that more than 250,000 died immediately, about 300,000 were injured and 1 million were rendered homeless. Cholera cases began to appear in October and the spread of the disease was exacerbated by Hurricane Tomas, which skirted the island on Nov. 5 but produced torrential rains and severe flooding. To date, cholera has killed an estimated 7,500 Haitians and sickened half a million.

Early studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other researchers showed that the primary cause of the epidemic was a bacterium known as Vibrio cholerae 01, which is found primarily in Asia. Many researchers speculated that the strain was brought to the island by Nepalese soldiers sent to provide relief, but none of the soldiers is known to have suffered cholera before arriving in Haiti.

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