CDC WARNS OF MALARIA RISK IN HAITI - MIAMI HERALD
BY FRED TASKER
The first feared cases of malaria have come to Haiti, weeks before the start of its next rainy season in May, and health officials are concerned that the deadly disease could become widespread.
Eleven cases confirmed among emergency personnel and Haitian residents have officials worried for them and for the more than 500,000 Haitians made homeless by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck on Jan. 12.
``Displaced persons living outdoors or in temporary shelters and thousands of emergency responders in Haiti are at substantial risk for malaria,'' said a report Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Carried by mosquitoes, the P.falciparum strain of malaria ``causes the most severe disease and highest mortality, and is the predominant species in Haiti,'' the CDC says.
Each year, Haiti has 30,000 confirmed cases of malaria, and officials believe the actual number is closer to 200,000.
Haiti's next rainy season doesn't start until May. But heavy rains came early in the southeastern city of Les Cayes on Feb. 28, creating floods that killed eight people.
The 11 cases so far include:
• Seven emergency responders, including six military.
• Three Haitian residents who traveled to the United States, including one Haitian adoptee.
• One U.S. traveler.
The six military members had been given the required oral preventative, dosycycline, plus insect repellent and insecticide-treated netting and uniforms. But two of them reported they had not adhered to the recommended preventive measures.
Of the 11 cases, four were uncomplicated and treated in Haiti. Two were moderate to serious and were transferred to the United States for intensive care. One needed intubation and mechanical ventilation for acute respiratory distress syndrome, the CDC said.
All are expected to make a full recovery.
According to the CDC, ``People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death can usually be prevented.''
For Haiti's strain of malaria, the standard treatment is chloroquine. No patient in Haiti treated with it has died, the CDC said.
People planning to travel to Haiti should start prevention measures at least a week before traveling, the CDC says, with one of the following: atrovaquone-proguanil, chloroquine, dioxycyline or mefloquine. But such preventive medicines are not totally effective, so travelers also should use mosquito repellent, wear protective clothing and sleep under an insecticide-treated mosquito net.