MINUSTAH has denied reports that its Mission officers are behind the outbreak of Cholera. However, the Head of the Haitian Ministry of Health, Dr. Alex Larsen has announced on the airwaves in Haiti, that the disease is imported and the Artibonite River is contaminated by external elements.
According to Dr. Larsen the source of the outbreak might possibly be traced to "citizens of countries where the germ is currently... " He cited, "among others, Latin Americans, Africans and Asians."
This is an extremely virulent disease that kills quickly but with care and time one can avoid death, he said.
Senator Yuri Latortue has asked for an investigation into the origin of the disease.
The MP believes that the Nepalese soldiers might not be innocent since, he said, they used to throw their excrement in the Artibonite River. The parliamentarian noted that Nepal is a country where this germ exists.
We need a thorough investigation, "said Yuri Latortue, noting that there are people who are willing to testify. We must fix responsibility and take action to prevent the disease spreading across the country," he said.
Haitian authorities, the local St. Marc community, and MINUSTAH have focused on the Nepalese post in Mirebalais, where residents have reported that the Nepalese soldiers, own a septic tank that discharges fecal matter in a river area that represents a branch of the Artibonite River.
On Radio Fm Scoop on Saturday, some residents of the area have detailed that every time the septic pit fills up it flows into the Artibonite River, particularly if it rains. MINUSTAH and a private contractor are responsible for cleaning the toilets.
Residents say that people who live on the side of Peligre, slightly above the base of Nepali soldiers, feel no discomfort, while those who live below the base have pruritus on their bodies and those who eat fish are victims of this epidemic.
A MINUSTAH spokesperson indicates that "7 septic tanks, constructed in closed circuit, serving the military base and meet the construction standards of the Agency for Environmental Protection (EPA)." She explained these septic tanks are emptied weekly by four trucks from MINUSTAH's private contractor.
MINUSTAH claims that "The landfill site used by the company, has obtained permission from the mayor of Mirebalais. It is 250 meters from the river Meille, "which represents more than 20 times the distance required at international level."
According to AP, "Lochard, the mayor, said he had told Nepalese officers not to place the landfill sites in that location but never received feedback from peacekeeping headquarters in Port-au-Prince."
The charge by Haitians that the Nepalese base is the source of the outbreak is being denied by MINUSTAH in a statement, but radio solidarite haiti (AHP) reports that "Authorities" indicate that the theory of "import" of the cholera epidemic is not excluded.
On Wednesday of last week "U.N. investigators took samples of foul-smelling waste trickling behind a Nepalese peacekeeping base toward an infected river system," so the Nepalese battalion base in Mirebalais is being investigated as a source of the cholera outbreak.
Adding further to the hurt caused by the outbreak is the closing of the Dominican border to Haitian merchants. Protests have occurred at the site of the Massacre River crossing separating the two countries.
"Only Haitians carrying legal documents are entitled to travel across the border," said Rafael Salas for his part, Provincial Director of Health of Dominica.
The WHO recommended that the border remain closed. The spokesman for the World Health Organization Fadela Chaib said, "It is our recommendation for any outbreak of cholera in any country."
A serious investigation by an independent authority must be carried out, in order to find the truth about the real cause of the deaths of 305, with 4.649 hospitalized as of Oct. 28.
It is important that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explain (if it is found to be the case) why its standards of septic tank construction at military bases are so inadequate as to leak into a river and contaminate it with toxic sewage that has resulted in a deadly epidemic propagating through the Haitian population, which has been free of cholera and never had this most lethal deadly form of the cholera bacteria. Haiti has not seen a case of cholera in at least 60 years.
Cholera is pandemic in much of the world but almost unheard of in the Western Hemisphere. It is endemic to Nepal, which suffered outbreaks this summer. A recent article in the Japanese Journal of Infectious Diseases about outbreaks in 2008-09 said the strain found by researchers was "Vibrio cholerae O1 Ogawa biotype El Tor."
That is the same strain that has been identified in Haiti, epidemiologist Eric Mintz of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the AP. But he cautioned that strain is common and description too general to be a "smoking gun" that would identify the strain's country of origin.
--Jonathan Katz, AP (10.27.2010)
"... John Mekalanos, chairman of microbiology and molecular genetics at Harvard Medical School, disagrees [with the CDC]. He and other Harvard researchers plan to get a much more fine-grained picture of the Haitian strain, down to its genetic sequence.
Mekalanos says he has "no doubt" that detailed genetic analysis will reveal "with some certainty" whether the Haitian strain was introduced from somewhere else — and most likely, where.
First, the Harvard scientists have to get it. But then it should take only a couple of weeks to sequence the Haitian strain, and get closer to solving the mystery."
The CDC said they may never determine the source of cholera in Haiti. Did the Harvard scientist standing by to test the strain have something to do with their rapid progress to a conclusion?