Cholera Outbreak Confirmed in NYC

Rebekah Gordon

Three residents from New York attended a wedding in the Dominican Republic in January, and have come back showing classic symptoms of cholera upon their return. These are the first known cases since the outbreak in Haiti last year. A local laboratory notified the NYDOH (New York Department of Health) on Saturday stating that three residents had developed diarrhea and dehydration, two known symptoms of the disease.

Dr. Sharon Balter, a medical epidemiologist for the DOH said none of the victims were hospitalized, and all have recovered since their return. The city has denied releasing the names of the adults who contracted the disease. City health officials are now working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to determine what the New York victims ate and to see if the strain of the disease they contracted is linked to the cholera epidemic that has ravaged Haiti, killing thousands since October and infecting many more.

The C.D.C., while trying to detect which strain is at issue, is still working closely with the Dominican Republics’ C.D.C. as well to support the state health department and get this outbreak under control. While cholera can spread swiftly where sanitation is poor and clean drinking water is unavailable, the possibility of transmitting the disease in New York is considered low. The likelihood of person-to-person transmission is also low, as one would have to drink large amounts of water contaminated with Vibrio cholera, the cholera-causing bacteria, to get sick.

Those with cholera can recover rapidly, particularly if they rehydrate by drinking water with salt or sugar. In some cases, intravenous treatment and antibiotics might be required. In New York, the occasional cholera case is not unusual. The NYDOH and C.D.C. see an average of one a year, particularly among those traveling to regions where the disease is common. Until now, there have been no previous cases since the outbreak.

Officials are stressing the importance of learning about the risk of cholera in parts of the world where it is most prevalent, and to notice any symptoms in the states. They are also trying to inform people about taking the steps to prevent contracting it if traveling abroad. You should speak with your physician before you travel, and if you do, only drink bottled water at any destination. You can also reduce your risk by only eating food that is cooked and served hot, along with constantly washing your hands with soap numerous times a day, and avoid swimming or bathing in rivers.

If you have any other questions about the outbreak or about the disease, contact the NYDOH at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/home/home.shtml.