An outbreak of cholera brought to Haiti by U.N. soldiers after the 2010 earthquake has spread to Mexico, where 180 people have been sickened since September, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
At least one person is dead in the outbreak, the first local transmission of the waterborne bacterial disease since 2001. The strain circulating now is nearly identical to the bacterium that has killed more than 8,000 Haitians since October 2010, officials said. It is different than the strain that circulated for a decade after 1991.
Nepalese U.N. soldiers were determined to be the source of the original outbreak, which spread through Haiti and the Dominican Republic and then to Cuba, where 700 people have been sickened. Before the summer of 2012, Cuba had not seen a case of cholera for a century.
Mexican health officials are bolstering drinking water treatment and sanitation efforts and launching awareness campaigns about safe food and water.
Cholera causes diarrhea and dehydration, which can be deadly, especially in the elderly or young children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s most often spread through contaminated food or water, typically tainted with the feces of an infected person or by untreated sewage. Food can be contaminated by a person with cholera.
U.S. water sources are generally regarded as safe from cholera because they’re chlorinated. The WHO is not recommending any travel or trade restrictions in Mexico, but CDC has issued advice for visitors.
Travelers to Mexico should make sure to drink bottled water with unbroken seals and canned or carbonated drinks. They should be leery of piped water sources, drinks sold in cups or bags, and ice. All water used for brushing teeth or drinking should be boiled or treated with chlorine tablets.
Cholera symptoms include acute, profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting, leading to rapid dehydration.