Haitian cholera estimates grossly underestimated

The latest estimates by United States researchers predict that the original expectations of 400,000 people contracting cholera in Haiti may be a gross underestimate and that close to twice as many may be affected.

The World Health Organization says that it is doing all that is possible to contain the disease and that modeling estimates are sometimes inaccurate. In the three months between October 2010 and December 2010, close to 150,000 people had contracted cholera in Haiti with 3,500 reported deaths, the BBC reports.

At that time, the United Nations projected the total number of infected would rise to around 400,000. The more recent prediction, by researchers at the University of California - San Francisco is that the infected toll could reach 779,000 with 11,100 deaths by November 2011.

“The epidemic is not likely to be short term,” Dr. Sanjay Basu said, according to the BBC. “It is going to be larger than predicted in terms of sheer numbers and will last far longer than the initial projections.”

The researchers say that thousands of lives could be saved with vaccinations, expanded access to antibiotics and the provision of clean water.

"We have to be cautious because modeling does not necessarily reflect what's seen on the ground,” a spokesman for the World Health Organization said, according to the BBC. "Latest figures show there have been 252,640 cases and 4,672 deaths as of 10 March 2011. We really need to reconstruct water and sanitation systems for the cholera epidemic to go away completely. It's a long-term process and cholera is going to be around for a number of years yet."