Haitian health officials are blaming the deaths of more than 100 people suffering from acute severe diarrhea and dehydration on an outbreak of cholera.
``For sure it is that,'' said a Ministry of Health official, who asked not to be identified because the government had yet to make an official announcement.
At least 1,000 people had been hospitalized in the lower Artibonite region in recent days, with the main hospital in St. Marc filled to capacity.
The conclusion of cholera was supported by diplomats at one foreign embassy. A report obtained by The Miami Herald stated that foreign health experts working with the Haitian government to identify the problem were ``99 percent sure it is cholera'' that caused severe diarrhea and vomiting in St. Marc, Mirebalais, Drouin and Marchand Dessalines. On Thursday, Haitian health specialists along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta continued to investigate the source of the outbreak while the government trucked in thousands of gallons of water.
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South Florida-based Food for the Poor also announced that it was shipping in antibiotic, oral dehydration salts, water filtration units and other critically needed supplies to several cities and rural villages near the outbreak. So far, it had not reached Gonaives, the largest city in the Artibonite region.
The U.S. Embassy warned U.S. citizens that they should only drink bottled water, avoid undercooked or raw seafood and ``seek medical assistance if you develop acute, water diarrhea,'' it said.
Cholera is a contagious bacterial disease that affects the intestinal system. Symptoms include severe vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. It can cause death within four to 12 hours after symptoms begin if untreated. Spread through consumption of infected food and water, or feces, the disease is treated with fluids and antibiotics.
The disease outbreak is the country's first since January's 7.0 earthquake claimed more than 300,000 lives.
A spokeswoman with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the source of the outbreak is still being investigated.
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