Death toll from Haiti cholera rises to 1,721
At least 1,721 Haitians have died from a worsening cholera epidemic in the earthquake-devastated country, according to new figures released by the health ministry on Monday.
The latest toll comes a day after Haitians voted in chaotic elections marred by violence and widespread allegations of fraud.
A total of 75,888 people have been infected by the disease and 33,485 have been hospitalized since the outbreak in mid-October.
The most hard-hit region, Artibonite, has seen 750 people die from cholera, while another 162 people have died from the disease in the capital Port-au-Prince.
Six cases have been confirmed in the neighboring Dominican Republic and a seventh in Miami, Florida -- the first stop for most people leaving Haiti.
French cholera specialist Renaud Piarroux said Monday that the strain of cholera making its way through Haiti must have been brought in from abroad and warned the disease could eventually infect up to 200,000 people.
"It started in the centre of the country, not by the sea, nor in the refugee camps. The epidemic can't be of local origin," he told AFP following a visit to the country.
The UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti has been widely blamed for the outbreak, with many Haitians saying it came from Nepalese soldiers posted in Artibonite, where the first cases were reported.
But last week Edmond Mulet, the head of the UN mission in Haiti, said none of his staff or soldiers had tested positive for the illness and that samples taken from the Nepalese camp showed no sign of the disease.
Cholera is caused by bacteria spread in contaminated water or food, often through feces. If untreated, it can kill within a day by causing rapid dehydration, with the old and the young the most vulnerable.
(c) 2010 AFP