October 28th, 2010
11:35 AM ET
By Sanjay Gupta
I visited one of the largest warehouses in Port-au-Prince yesterday. It is a large structure behind a big blue gate and a handful of security guards. I went to get a better understanding of how lifesaving supplies are distributed in the middle of a cholera outbreak. Outside, workers from aid organizations were also waiting to take supplies to patients in St. Marks, the epicenter of the outbreak.
It quickly became clear that it was going to be a long day. One of the workers told me she had been waiting for several hours to pick up the supplies despite the fact that she had all the necessary paperwork and authorizations. No one was available to help her. After sitting there frustrated nearly the whole day, she eventually left empty-handed, telling me this wasn’t at all unusual. “Typical Third World red tape,” she added.
October 27th, 2010
05:01 PM ET
Haiti's department of public health has recorded 4,147 confirmed cases and 292 deaths from cholera since the outbreak was reported last week, officials from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced Wednesday. The PAHO is watching the spread of the disease closely, for fear that cholera could cross the border into the Dominican Republic.
On Tuesday, the United Nations reported Nigeria's worst outbreak in recent years, with more than 1,500 dead.
October 26th, 2010
05:16 PM ET
From cholera sickening thousands in Haiti to American college students buzzing from a concoction of caffeine and alcohol, here are the some of the biggest health news unfolding this week.
Cholera outbreak in Haiti and Nigeria
Officials are trying to contain a cholera outbreak that already has killed 259 people and sickened 3,000 as the disease spreads through the earthquake-ravaged nation where tens of thousands of people are still living in tent cities. And the disease is also spreading in Nigeria. Cholera can be deadly within hours.
October 25th, 2010
05:32 PM ET
The fast moving cholera outbreak has sickened more than 3,000 people and resulted in more than 250 deaths in the island nation of Haiti. This infectious disease has not been seen on the island since the 1960s and doctors are working around the clock to get the outbreak under control.
"We expect these cases to increase and infection to emerge," said Dr. Jon Andrus, deputy director of Pan American Health Organization. "We had put in an early warning system to watch for these consequences, since the earthquake on January 12. So we are prepared if the numbers become more widespread. We are ready to handle this infection."
But according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, the bacteria must have been in Haiti already, beneath the surface, and poor sanitation helped trigger the outbreak.
October 22nd, 2010
02:09 PM ET
Cholera is a bacterial illness that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration and can be lethal within hours if a person is not treated.
"This is a bacteria that actually is in the environment. It's in brackish water in the river. It can be in seacoasts and if the environmental conditions are not right, the cholera bacteria can grow up and then anyone who ingests that water or food that comes from that water or food that is prepared with that water can get ill," says Dr. William Schaffner, chair of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
In an epidemic, cholera can also be spread from the feces of an infected person. Children and adults alike are vulnerable. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), three-quarters of people carrying the bacteria have no symptoms. For those who do get sick, the main symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, muscle cramps, dehydration and shock. Death can occur if treatment is not immediately administered.
The WHO estimates 3–5 million people are sickened by cholera each year causing 100,000–120,000 deaths.
The bacteria can spread when human waste enters water systems and people drink the contaminated water or eat food that's been cooked in contaminated water. While modern sewerage systems have almost completely eliminated cholera in industrialized countries, it can thrive in areas where war, disaster, or extreme poverty forces people to live in crowded and unsanitary conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Cholera is easily treated if people can be rehydrated. In many cases, giving patients oral rehydration salts can help relieve symtoms. In more severe cases, IV fluids may and antibiotics are required. According to the WHO, the fatality rate may be 30-50 percent if left untreated. Two vaccines are available to prevent cholera, but they are not always readily available in situations where disaster and impoverishment flourish.
Improving sewerage and sanitation conditions is the best way to prevent cholera outbreaks and spread, according to the WHO. But this is not always practical in times of disaster, where food, hygiene and public health tracking may be compromised.
July 12th, 2010
01:28 PM ET
Dr. Sanjay Gupta returns to Port-au-Prince and is dismayed to find too little progress: empty examining rooms, unpaid nurses, few resources and heartbreaking, unnecessary death. Read more of his frustration.
Watch his full report tonight on "AC360," 10 p.m. ET.
Complete coverage of the Haiti earthquake on CNN.com.
July 8th, 2010
02:08 PM ET
Access to health care has improved in Haiti, but the everyday situation remains precarious for thousands of Haitians nearly six months after a devastating earthquake struck the country, according to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The medical humanitarian organization released a report on Thursday, outlining its response to the disaster and current living conditions for Haitians.
February 11th, 2010
05:09 PM ET
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.