Haiti cholera outbreak worsens, COVID-19 cases rise in Americas - PAHO

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bogota

By Steven Grattan

SAO PAULO (Reuters) -The cholera situation in Haiti continues to worsen while COVID-19 cases rose over the past week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.

Haitian health authorities have confirmed over 700 cases of cholera and 144 cholera-related deaths since early October, and are investigating more than 7,000 suspected cases, PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne said.

"This is a dangerous situation, and PAHO urges all countries to increase vigilance, while we support Haiti in providing life-saving care to patients, deploying health workers, and facilitating access to fuel for health facilities," Etienne said.

The Americas are facing a “triple threat” of respiratory diseases, as COVID-19, Influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) burden the region and its health systems, PAHO said.

There was a 17% rise in COVID-19 cases, and deaths increased in South America and Central America over the past week, Etienne said.

"Every time we become complacent with this virus, we run the risk of a resurgence. We cannot lower our guard," she said.

Seasonal influenza cases are also increasing, following two years of below-average activity, she said.

After a couple of years of lower seasonal transmission, RSV infections have increased significantly, putting pressure on health systems in Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay and the United States, PAHO said.

"The rise of a single respiratory infection is a cause for concern. When two or three start impacting a population concurrently, this should put us all on alert," Etienne said.

Although the Americas are still the region most impacted by monkeypox, PAHO said cases have fallen in most of the severely affected countries.

"We must take advantage of this momentum to drive monkeypox cases to zero as quickly as possible," she said.

(Reporting by Steven Grattan; Editing by Josie Kao)