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Haiti officials claim crisis stabilizing amid chaos

By Paula Newton, CNN
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Cholera outbreak in Haiti
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • St. Nicholas Hospital in Haiti is packed with cholera victims
  • Aid organizations and local staff try to treat the most vulnerable
  • A CDC doctor says mortality rates seem to be coming down
  • Haiti's health minister says he believes the cholera outbreak is stabilizing

Saint-Marc, Haiti (CNN) -- Patients arrive at the front gates of St. Nicholas Hospital hunched over and groaning, only to be greeted by chaos and confusion.

Getting inside isn't easy, but once in, aid organizations and local staff try to treat those most vulnerable to the ravages of cholera in an area of wooden benches grouped as a triage area.

Many here are still lying in the open air and are sprawled out on concrete with anxious relatives holding re-hydration fluid, hoping it will treat the cholera now stalking this rural area about 60 miles northwest of the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince.

Death toll passes 250

Those most at risk are the very old and the very young. Dozens of infants who lay crying and uncomfortable on their mothers' laps, dehydrated and weak.

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Haiti's health minister, Dr. Alex Larsen, told CNN in a telephone interview that he believes the cholera outbreak is stabilizing. Larsen added that reports of the outbreak spreading are so far unsubstantiated.

BLOG: Cholera can be deadly within hours

The United Nations confirmed to CNN on Saturday that there are five confirmed cases of cholera in the capital but those cases originated from the area in and around Saint-Marc.

CNN toured St. Nicholas Hospital with a team from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. The team is here to support the government's efforts and advise on how to best mitigate and contain the outbreak.

"It is encouraging that the mortality rate seems to be coming down." says Dr. Eric Mintz, a scientist with the CDC who specializes in diarrheal diseases.

Mintz adds that while the outbreak is likely to spread, the fatality rates should continue to drop, and the water, sanitization and hygiene infrastructure in the country can be strengthened in time to avoid a full-scale disaster.

 
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