A new outbreak of cholera in the Dominican Republic is causing health officials grave concern. So far, 14 people have died and another 16 are hospitalized. Border controls are being carefully monitored to isolate the outbreak, and health officials have stepped up health checks on the population.
Nearby Haiti has lost an estimated 4,500 people to cholera in recent months, the first outbreak for 100 years.
Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake in early 2010, and with the total breakdown of the infrastructure, cholera raised its ugly head and spread rapidly through infected water used by people to wash and bathe as well as drink.
The presence of cholera in any given population is a nightmare for health officials the world over. In recent history, there have been a total of 7 cholera pandemics, resulting in the deaths of millions of people.
It is not passed from person to person, but through contamination of food or water supply. This is what makes it so difficult for health officials to track. Out of every 100 or so people infected with cholera, only 2 or 3 go on to develop symptoms. Meanwhile the other 97 can, and do, infect other people through incorrect hygiene, which includes failure to wash hands after going to the bathroom.
The last time America had an out-of-control outbreak was in 1910, when an estimated 150,000 people lost their lives.
Nevertheless, it is really important for American citizens, and indeed all citizens of this planet, to know the symptoms and treatment of cholera.
It is easily preventable by being scrupulous about your personal hygiene, and always remembering to wash your hands after visiting the toilet, and before preparing or eating food.