How cholera in Haiti began
January 9th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

How cholera in Haiti began

Two years after an earthquake shook Haiti, the small country grappled with the death, the destruction and the debris.

After the earthquake on January 12, another health crisis struck about 10 months later: cholera.

The bacterial disease brings about a painful death, as quickly as within two to three hours, because of the amount of fluid and electrolytes that are lost.  Symptoms are watery diarrhea, dehydration, nausea and vomiting.   FULL POST

October 13th, 2011
03:25 PM ET

Lesson from Haiti's deadly cholera outbreak

Cholera cases have risen in Haiti, but the number dying from the disease is down, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The number of deaths were initially way too high,” said Dr. Robert Tauxe, researcher and deputy director at the CDC. “But within a few weeks of the outbreak, we trained teams to treat the disease and increased access to supplies.”

Tauxe says these improvements lowered the mortality rate from cholera in Haiti from 4% to below 1%, where it's been since December.

Cholera is contracted by consuming food or water contaminated with fecal bacteria. People who live in rural areas with a lack of adequate water treatment and sanitation are more likely to get the disease. While it can cause severe dehydration from rapid loss of body fluids, cholera is one of the easiest diseases to treat with oral rehydration salts.

Access to these very basic supplies was a core challenge in Haiti that led to many deaths soon after the outbreak.


January 12th, 2011
09:18 AM ET

New paint doesn't mask orphans' life on the edge

We first met the children at Patience Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, six months ago. Despite living in often deplorable conditions, you can count on a smile. Their spirit is contagious.

Roughly 50 children, from infants to 13 years, occupied the small house.  At the time there were no beds. The children slept on a concrete floor.  Worse yet, they were on their last bag of rice and beans.  It was simply not enough.

We flagged the needs of the orphanage to a small U.S. based non-profit organization, Can-Do . Can-Do, in turn, located a food distributor just miles down the road that was willing to provide a truck full of supplies.

After that story aired, CNN viewers wanted to help. Thousands of dollars were donated to Can-Do.org to help the children at Patience Orphanage. The staff  bought supplies, rented trucks and hired local Haitians to give this orphanage a much-needed facelift.

Today, the kids have beds to sleep in. The walls are painted bright pink, and blue. The floors, now tiled. Two new bathrooms were installed, complete with plumbing and a septic system. For the first time, they have a kitchen and a kid-friendly water filtration system.

The thing that struck me about all these changes was that they didn’t take very much money.

Can-Do spent a total of $5,658 to make all these changes to the orphanage. $20 per gallon for fresh paint, $160 for light fixtures, $500 for kitchen cabinets,  $30 for five new light switches.  Turns out, money donated by you (no matter how big or small) can go along way here in Haiti.

And while the cosmetic changes provided to Patience Orphanage are tremendous for those 50 smiling faces, the children are still living on the edge. They may no longer be sleeping on the floor, but their food is still scarce. The owner of this particular orphanage has not been able to secure a coveted spot as a “beneficiary” from food distribution NGOs.  Becoming a beneficiary guarantees monthly deliveries.

That's the reality for many hungry in Haiti:  The demand for food outweighs the supply. So for now, Patience Orphanage rations the food it has and waits for donations.

Of course, the children at Patience Orphanage represent just a sliver of the roughly 350,000 orphans living in Haiti. Many of Haiti’s orphans are getting aid, but others have fallen through the cracks.

January 11th, 2011
06:20 PM ET

Human Factor: Faith, miracles and a new reach

In the Human Factor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces you to survivors who have overcome tremendous odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship – they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed. Be inspired by their successes, as we have been.

My name is Darline Bertil. I am 25 years old. I was born and raised in Port-au Prince, the capital of Haiti, which was the epicenter of the earthquake. Before this devastating earthquake, my life was quite normal. I attended school, church and lived a productive life.

On the afternoon of January 12, 2010, I was at work when at 4 p.m. I felt the ground start to shake. My coworkers and I were startled and wondered what was going on. We decided to check our surroundings and saw that the counters of the bar were blocking us in. The building had collapsed in less than 30 seconds. We had no outside contact and ended up trapped there for days.

We prayed for deliverance and felt hopeless, asking God for forgiveness. We  feared that it was the end of the world. During this time I was also trapped by the concrete, and I could not feel my arms. Later I was told that when I was rescued I was unconscious.

The day I was rescued by several American soldiers, they took me on a medical boat called the “USNS Comfort.” I never thought I would see another day.

What I want people to know is that with God all things are possible and to believe in miracles. Without faith and courage I would have not survived.

I lost my arms in this tragedy and now face my biggest challenge, which is to adjust to life with no upper limbs, and a limp on my right leg.

The hardest moments for me were the realization that I had lost both my arms. In life there are circumstances that we face that we cannot change. My country as in many has flaws but one thing I would advocate for is equality for the disabled.

 If you don’t take anything else from my story please know that life is precious. What we take for granted can be gone in a matter of seconds, cherish the people in your life and live life to the fullest. Tomorrow's not promised!!

Human Factor appears on "SGMD," 7:30 a.m. Saturday-Sunday

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Filed under: Haiti • Human Factor

2010 Year in Review: Haiti
December 29th, 2010
09:04 AM ET

2010 Year in Review: Haiti

Editor’s note: This week, The Chart is taking a closer look at the most important health stories of 2010. Each day, we'll feature buzzwords and topics that came to the forefront over the past year.

In just 30 seconds this year, an earthquake devastated the impoverished nation of Haiti.

The damage from January’s quake was widespread. One-third of the population was affected. The 7.0-magnitude quake took 230,000 lives, injured more than 300,000 and left 1.3 million homeless.


Cholera vaccine, antibiotics urged for Haiti
December 10th, 2010
07:19 PM ET

Cholera vaccine, antibiotics urged for Haiti

The cholera epidemic in Haiti continues to spread, particularly in the rural areas in the north, which has public health advocates calling for more to to be done to try to stem the spread of disease.

In a commentary published Friday in the journal The Lancet, Dr. Paul Farmer, a co-founder of Partners In Health and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, calls for more antibiotics and vaccines to be shipped to the small Caribbean nation.

He and his co-authors told reporters Friday that there are still areas and even some camps where only few people have been infected with the waterborne disease, which causes severe diarrhea and dehydration and in extreme cases can lead to death in just a few hours.


Study: Origin of cholera epidemic in Haiti is in humans, not nature
December 9th, 2010
07:20 PM ET

Study: Origin of cholera epidemic in Haiti is in humans, not nature

After studying the DNA of the strain of cholera responsible for the outbreak in Haiti, researchers believe this disease was brought to the Caribbean nation by humans.

Researchers used cutting-edge DNA testing to identify the origins of the bacteria responsible for the large cholera outbreak.  By sequencing the genome of this strain and analyzing the DNA from strains found in Latin America and South Asia, researchers found this Haitian strain of cholera is nearly identical to strains circulating in South Asia, according to a study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday.  However, it was distinct from the strain in Latin America, says lead author Dr. Matthew Waldor, a physician and researcher at the Harvard School of Medicine.


December 1st, 2010
03:27 PM ET

Art as healing after Haiti earthquake

Philippe Dodard couldn't pick up a paint brush in the month following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Many of his friends perished as a result of the disaster, and he found himself having no reaction when he would get calls about a new death.

"It’s only when I started painting, all of my emotions that were buried inside started coming out," he said.

Dodard, a prominent, internationally recognized Haitian artist who works in Port-au-Prince, is participating in Haiti Art Expo 2010, an event taking place this weekend in Miami, Florida. The collection features works by Dodard and many other Haitian artists, as well as American artists. All of the proceeds from the sales of these works will go toward refugees and artists who have lost their homes because of the earthquake.


November 4th, 2010
05:41 PM ET

TEDMED: Gupta on helping Haiti

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta couldn't make it to the TEDMED 2010 conference because he was on assignment in Haiti, but he still presented his perspective on covering the earthquake and cholera outbreak there.

In January, in the aftermath of the earthquake, Gupta remembers children running after dump trucks to see if the bodies of their parents or loved ones were inside. "It was as if these people just vanished off the face of the Earth," he said. Some say it will take four years to get Haiti back to the way it was one day before the earthquake, he said.


October 29th, 2010
11:31 AM ET


By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

The tragic story of 22-year-old Saint Helene and her 15-month old daughter Cherie began like many here in Haiti. About two weeks ago, Saint Helene bought a bus ticket to Artibonite, a city about an hour north of Port Au Prince. Visiting with friends there last week, they had likely heard about the cholera outbreak that was unfolding in front of them. The good news: When Saint Helene and Cherie headed back to Port-au-Prince a few days later, they felt perfectly fine. Asymptomatic, as we say in the medical world. What Saint Helene or Cherie could not have known at that time is they were likely carrying the cholera bacteria back to the nation’s capital.

What happened next is not entirely clear. Saint Helene told us she was walking in Port-au-Prince, when she became suddenly ill. Within a couple hours, she was terribly dehydrated from diarrhea, and began to vomit. A good Samaritan brought mother and her young child to the closest hospital, where Saint Helene was taken to a back, somewhat isolated area and began treatment for cholera. She had an IV placed, and was given salts to replace the lost electrolytes. All of this happened within a few hours, relatively speedy, especially given the logistical challenges of Haiti.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.