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Epidemiological update: Ongoing outbreak of cholera in Cuba, potential risk for European travellers

10 Jul 2012

On 3 July the Cuban Ministry of Health confirmed an outbreak of cholera in the south-western city of Manzanillo. It is the first time in almost 150 years that an outbreak of cholera is reported in the island. The heavy rains and the high temperatures during the previous weeks have likely influenced the occurrence of the disease. As of 3 July, 53 cases of Vibrio cholerae, including three deaths, have been officially confirmed.   

Since 7 July, several media sources report a higher number of cases and the disease has spread to other cities including the capital, Havana.

At this stage there is no information available about the outbreak strain, nor of the origin of the outbreak. 

According to the Ministry of Health in Cuba, control measures have been implemented, including sampling and closure of contaminated private and public wells, treatment of waste water, provision of chlorinated water in the pipes of the affected areas, and public awareness is being raised about the importance of good sanitary and hygiene practices.

ECDC is closely monitoring the cholera situation in Cuba and is working in collaboration with the World Health Organization to assess the potential risk for infection of European citizens travelling to Cuba. A rapid risk assessment, primarily intended for public health professionals, will shortly be published on the ECDC website.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae of serogroups O1 or O139. Consumption of contaminated water and food results in infection. After a short incubation period of less than five days, the typical symptoms might develop, characterised by vomiting and watery (“rice water”) diarrhoea. With timely treatment (mainly fluid replacement), less than 1% of patients with symptoms die. The disease has not been endemic in Europe for a long time, and thanks to high hygiene standards the potential for imported cases to generate further ones is very low.

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