GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (GIS) -- Following a cholera outbreak in Cuba, the Cayman Islands' Medical Officer of Health, Dr Kiran Kumar, has issued a travel advisory recommending travel to that country on an essential basis only.
According to media reports Cuba is facing a cholera outbreak 130 years after the last known case of the disease on the island. As at 7 July, at least 15 people are dead, and over 1,000 persons are affected by the current cholera outbreak.
"We advise that residents travel to Cuba only when necessary. If you have to go, take vital precautions such as ensuring hygienic food preparation, boiling or purifying all water, and washing hands often with soap and clean water. Travellers should also carry an ample supply of oral rehydration salts," said Kumar.
"The chances of importation of cholera into Cayman are limited and, even if it occurs, our excellent sanitation and safe water will prevent its spread. In addition, we have adequate facilities and drugs to manage any cases should importation occur," he added.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingesting contaminated food or water with cholera bacterium. It can take anywhere from five hours to five days for symptoms to appear after infection, but usually symptoms appear within 24-48 hours. Cholera infection is often mild or without symptoms but can sometimes be severe. Approximately one in 20 (or 5% of) infected persons will have severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhoea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these people, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.
According to WHO figures, however, up to 80 percent of cases can be treated successfully with oral rehydration salts. Although there is an oral vaccine available for use in endemic countries, it is not available in the US or in Cayman.
Whilst Kumar noted that the risk of importation of cholera is low, he applauded the pro-active efforts by various agencies in monitoring the cholera situation in Cuba and taking the necessary steps to prevent , detect and manage any imported cholera cases.
Kumar urged travellers returning from Cuba who develop diarrhoea within five days to contact a doctor immediately, and state their travel history so that the right diagnosis can be made.
Tips for Prevention
Travellers to Cuba can greatly reduce the risk of contracting the disease by following these practices:
• Drink only bottled, boiled or chemically-treated water and/or bottled or canned beverages.
• Ensure that seals are unbroken when using bottled drinks.
• Disinfect your own water: boil for one minute or filter the water and add two drops of household bleach or half an iodine tablet per litre of water.
• Use bottled, boiled or chemically-treated water to wash dishes and brush teeth.
• Use ice in your drink only if you know it was made from boiled or treated water.
• Wash your hands often with soap and clean water.
• Clean your hands before you eat or prepare foods, and after using the bathroom.
• Eat foods that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot, or fruit that you have peeled yourself.
• Cook all vegetables. Do not eat salads or other raw vegetables.
• Do not buy food or beverages from street vendors.