Expert says Haiti cholera came from abroad

The Haiti cholera outbreak that has lead to the deaths of over 1,600 people must have come from abroad and the epidemic may cause sickness in 200,000 people, a leading French epidemiologist has announced.

While cholera specialist Professor Renaud Piarroux does not point a finger at the Nepalese peacekeeping troops that many in Haiti believe were the source of the cholera strain, he pointed out that several hundred deaths occurred after drinking the water of the nearby Artibonite delta, AFP reports. The Artibonite river is downstream of a Nepalese U.N. base in Mirebalais, Haiti.

“It started in the center of the country, not by sea, nor in the refugee camps,” Piarroux said, according to AFP. “The epidemic can’t be of local origin. That’s to say, it was imported.”

Edmond Mulet, head of the U.N. mission in Haiti, told AFP last week that no civilian official, police officer or U.N. soldier had tested positive for cholera and that all samples from the Nepalese camp have come back negative.

“There is no scientific evident that the camp at Mirebalais is the source of this epidemic,” Mulet said, according to AFP. Mulet added that there is, “a lot of disinformation, a lot of rumors around this situation.”

Piarroux believes the number of cholera cases in the epidemic could hit 200,000.

“But there won’t be tens of thousands of deaths, nor a sudden spike,” Piarroux said, according to  AFP.

Cholera, caused by bacteria spread in food or water, can kill within a day due to dehydration if left untreated. The elderly and the young are most at risk from cholera.