A month after Hurricane Sandy hit Cuba, outbreaks of cholera and dengue fever have been reported in eastern parts of the country.
The high winds and rain caused massive flooding. (See Hurricane Sandy Exposes Cuba's Crumbling Infrastructure.) Standing water is an ideal breeding-ground for cholera – an intestinal disease transmitted by contaminated liquid and food – and for the mosquitos that carry dengue fever.
In three provinces – Santiago de Cuba, Las Tunas and Guantánamo – residents say some municipalities have been placed under quarantine.
“The public health ministry is here in Guantánamo because it placed the La Tinta community under quarantine three days ago, following a new outbreak of cholera,” Juan Luis Bravo Rodríguez, a correspondent for the Hablemos Press Information Centre in Guantánamo City, said on November 16.
A health ministry employee interviewed by Bravo Rodríguez said there 206 cholera cases had been recorded in the province, and more than 100 serious cases of dengue fever.
Niober García, who lives in Guantánamo province, García said some communities in the Himias and San Antonio del Sur municipalities were also under quarantine.
The health authorities have not yet acknowledged the outbreaks.
The official newspaper Granma reported that Public Health Minister Roberto Morales Ojeda told a November 22 meeting in Holguín province, also in the east, that water quality needed to be maintained to avoid dengue fever taking hold. However, he did not say that cases of either disease had been recorded.
On October 20, five days before the hurricane struck Cuba, the Pan-American Health Organisation warned that the impending damage to sanitation systems could cause problems “in areas previously affected by cholera and other illnesses related to water use and the handling of food”.
Human rights activist Mayelín Isaac said her investigations showed that there were at least 50 cholera patients in the Ambrosio Grillo Hospital in Santiago de Cuba.
In addition, she found that there had been more than 200 confirmed cases in the province’s La Maya and San Luis communities in recent weeks.