BBC Reports on Cholera Outbreak

Sunday, January 13, 2013
Kudos to the BBC for being the only foreign news bureau in Cuba courageous enough to report on the cholera outbreak in Havana.

The others are apparently afraid to offend the Castro regime or lose their perks.

Also, please don't forget Cuban independent journalist, Calixto Martinez Arias, who has been in prison since September 16th for daring to first report on the cholera outbreak.

For his independent journalism, he has been charged with "disrespect" to the figures of Fidel and Raul Castro.

From BBC:

Cholera fear in Cuba as officials keep silent

Doctors are now making door-to-door inquiries in Havana and anyone displaying possible cholera symptoms is being tested. Suspected cases are being sent to the Tropical Medicine Institute, the IPK.

"All our wards are dealing with this issue - they are almost full," an IPK employee told the BBC by telephone, before saying she was not authorized to comment further.

Another staff member, contacted later and also not authorized to speak to the media, said the IPK did not have any confirmed cases of cholera at this point.

But Yanisey Pino says her brother was diagnosed with cholera both by his local hospital and the IPK.

The day Uvaldo [Pino] died, health workers visited the family where they live - in several cramped houses around a small yard. Relatives and neighbors were issued antibiotics as a precaution.

The area has been disinfected and water samples were taken for testing. Meanwhile, nearby bars and cafeterias have been closed or instructed not to sell food or drink that is not pre-packed.

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, there are similar scenes.

One resident, Yudermis, fell sick just before the New Year, along with four other relatives including her seven-year-old son. The family assumed they had food poisoning but Yudermis says her cousin then tested positive for cholera at their local clinic.

"The health workers then came here asking questions, like if we had diarrhoea," she explains inside their rundown family home as her son, now fully recovered, plays nearby.

"They sent us all to hospital by ambulance and the tests came back positive.

"There were a lot of people at the IPK," Yudermis adds, describing dozens of admissions while she was being treated, and not all from her own district of Cerro [...]

[I]in the tourist heart of Old Havana, cafes and restaurants remain open and the streets are still full of mobile food and drink vendors.

Most say they have heard rumors of a cholera outbreak in Cerro and are taking extra precautions, but none have received any official instructions.

The WHO stresses "public communication" as a key tool in controlling any cholera outbreak.

In Havana, that task has so far been left to local doctors who are very connected to their communities.

But as rumors fill the information void, concern on the streets is growing.

"I'm racking my brains trying to understand why there's nothing on TV about this," says Yanisey Pino, echoing many peoples' comments.

"Why don't they say something? Inform people, like in other countries, so they're not afraid and can protect themselves! But there's no information at all."