The first report of clinical cholera in Haiti occurred on October 19, 2010, only 10 months after the earthquake. Following its emergence in the Artibonite Valley in central Haiti, infections spread to all 10 Departments of Haiti within 100 days, and by December 2012 there were 629,300 cases and 7,824 deaths – the largest cholera epidemic in recent history.
GHESKIO immediately established an emergency cholera treatment center in Port au Prince. GHESKIO launched a comprehensive cholera program in City of God, including provision of chlorinated water, building of latrines, and establishing rehydration posts and a 250-bed tent hospital. Community health workers were trained about symptoms of cholera, how to make rehydration fluids, and when to refer patients to GHESKIO. A permanent 100-bed cholera treatment center has now been built at GHESKIO.
The oral cholera vaccine (Shancol) was introduced into City of God by GHESKIO in April 2012, and 50,000 volunteers had received two doses of the vaccine by July 2012. The demonstration trial was conducted with Partners in Health (PIH), Cornell, Harvard, and the Haitian Ministry of Health, and included persons living in rural Haiti. GHESKIO conducted a complete door-to-door census of City of God using hand-held communication devices. Dr. Roger Glass, Director of the NIH Fogarty International Center stated, “The experience in Haiti by this pioneering group has demonstrated that the many preconceptions and objections raised about the difficulty of delivering mass cholera vaccinations to a population can be overcome and that the vaccine can be delivered effectively to large numbers of people. The Haitian example will provide a model for other countries to emulate in the years ahead.”