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For Immediate Release: October 29, 2010
Contact: CDC Division of Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

Outbreak of Cholera in Haiti: Family and Friends Traveling to Haiti Should Take Precautions While Celebrating All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day This Year

As many Haitian-Americans go to Haiti to visit family and friends to celebrate All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds travelers to take precautions to protect themselves from cholera, which has been spreading in Haiti since October 21.

Cholera causes severe diarrhea and can result in life-threatening loss of fluids from the body. Without proper care, a person can die within hours. Cholera can be treated by immediate replacement of the fluids and salts lost through diarrhea. Antibiotics can also shorten the course and diminish the severity of the illness.

People most often get cholera by drinking water or eating food that has cholera germs in it. Water can be contaminated with the feces of a person sick with cholera. Food can be contaminated by water that has cholera germs in it or if it has been prepared or handled by a person sick with cholera.

CDC offers these tips to travelers:

  1. Pack water purification tablets or other supplies to make your own safe water for drinking.
  2. Eat food that is thoroughly cooked and hot.
  3. Wash your hands often with soap and safe water.
  4. Wash yourself, your children, diapers, and clothes away from drinking water sources.
  5. Use latrines, or sanitation systems like chemical toilets, to dispose of feces. If you don't have access to a latrine or chemical toilet, defecate away from any water source and then bury the feces.
  6. Pack oral rehydration salts to use if you get sick with diarrhea, and use safe water to make your oral rehydration solution.

What to do if you get sick while visiting Haiti

If you have watery diarrhea, you should go to a clinic immediately. You should also start drinking liquids with oral rehydration salts, also called ORS, immediately, if they are available. Try to sip ORS solution every few minutes as long as you have diarrhea. If you do not have ORS, sip safe water and seek medical care and ORS solution immediately. Safe water is water that has been boiled, or has been treated with chlorine.

CDC strongly advises that travelers should not bring perishable seafood back to the United States from Haiti because seafood may be contaminated with cholera germs.

What to do if you become ill after returning from Haiti

If you get watery diarrhea within five days of returning from Haiti, seek medical care right away. Replacing the water and salt lost from your body is the most important part of cholera treatment. Do not travel again until you are well.

For more information and tips about traveling to Haiti, visit www.cdc.gov/haiticholera.

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