In the aftermath of the catastrophic 2010 Haiti Earthquake a significant cholera outbreak has complicated recovery efforts. This epidemic has infected over four million individuals and has already claimed 4,000 lives. With the treatment options for cholera already well-established in the medical community, what must be done to address the current outbreak?
In a recently published viewpoint in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (“Meeting Cholera’s Challenge to Haiti and the World: A Joint Statement on Cholera Prevention and Care”), an international team of researchers, policymakers, funders, and practitioners led by American physician Dr. Paul Farmer (Partners in Health, Harvard University), argues for a comprehensive, integrated strategy: “We must reduce suffering and preventable death in the short term, and we must build effective water, sanitation, and health delivery infrastructure to fortify Haiti against cholera and other diseases of poverty in the long term.” Additional recommendations include aggressive case identification and treatment, increased public health surveillance, educational campaigns, and vaccinations. The publication of the joint statement in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases makes these recommendations freely-available to policy-makers and physicians throughout the world.
Dr. Paul Farmer is world-famous for his pioneering systemic approach to meeting global health challenges and for his treatment successes in resource-poor areas such as Haiti. The joint statement emphasizes large-scale solutions to control the current outbreak while building a foundation to address outbreaks to come: “Debates about prevention versus care are misguided—it is not either/or but both that are needed…Haiti faces both urgent and entrenched challenges that will require solutions that combine short-term speed and long-term sustainability.”