Haitian cholera epidemic could have been halved by sufficient vaccine stockpile

A recent study shows that the cholera epidemic that broke out in Haiti last October could have been cut in half had there been a sufficient stockpile of the oral cholera vaccine.

The study, performed by members of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, was published in the April 11 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to the report, inoculating 50 to 70 percent of people in targeted high-risk areas after the waterborne disease outbreak would have reduced morbidity and mortality by roughly 50 percent.

To gather their data, professor Ira Longini and his team used computer models that simulated the spread of the outbreak and then tested various vaccination strategies to counter the epidemic.

"We show that while you cannot completely control epidemic cholera with vaccines alone, you can certainly greatly reduce the number of cases and deaths, especially if you combine it with some pretty modest sanitation interventions," Longini, a member of the Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Diseases, said.

The study found that current cholera vaccines are in short supply, which could potentially be problematic for similar areas prone to poverty and natural calamities.

For a cholera vaccine to be effective, people need two doses, and it takes time for the vaccinated people to become immune, according to the CDC.