By TRENTON DANIEL, Associated Press
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- The number of cholera cases seen in the Haitian capital has jumped about threefold in recent weeks, an official with a foreign aid group said Monday.
Pascale Zintzen, deputy head of mission for Doctors Without Borders, said the group's four treatment centers in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area have handled as many as 850 cases in a single week lately. That compares with about 250 cases a week more than a month ago.
The rise is largely attributed to the second rainy season of the year, when showers and floods cause the waterborne disease to spread freely in the crowded and unsanitary capital, Zintzen said.
One cholera treatment center in the densely packed Port-au-Prince area of Martissaint has 90 beds for patients but is almost out of space, she said.
"We are not far from it," Zintzen said by telephone. "We are worried about what we see at the moment."
Despite the jump in cases, the weekly number is still far below what foreign aid groups saw in the initial peak last November after the disease surfaced a year ago.
Health care workers for Doctors Without Borders treated as many 4,600 patients in one week at its treatment centers in the Port-au-Prince area and about half that number in late May, when the year's first rainy season kicked in.
There had never been any documented cases of cholera in Haiti until a year ago, when a U.N. peacekeeping battalion from Nepal likely introduced the disease.
Cholera is caused by a bacteria that produces severe diarrhea and is contracted by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. The disease is relatively easy to treat if people can get help in time, but Haiti's poverty sometimes makes it difficult to find immediate help.
The epidemic has killed more than 6,200 people and sickened nearly 440,000 others, according to Haitian health officials.
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