If you plan to travel to Haiti or the Dominican Republic for the holidays, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges you to protect yourself from cholera. Cholera has been spreading in Haiti and, to a limited degree, the Dominican Republic since October and November respectively.
Cholera causes severe diarrhea and can result in death. Without proper care, a person can die within hours. Cholera can be treated by drinking water mixed with oral rehydration salts. Antibiotics can also speed recovery and make the illness less severe.
People get cholera by drinking water or eating food that has cholera germs in it. Water can be contaminated with the feces of a person sick with cholera. Food can be contaminated by water that has cholera germs in it or if the food has been prepared or handled by a person sick with cholera.
CDC offers these tips to travelers:
Before you go
- Pack water purification tablets to make your own safe water for drinking.
- Pack oral rehydration salts to use if you get sick with diarrhea.
- Water purification tablets and oral rehydration salts can be purchased at major retailers as well as sports and outdoors stores.
While you are traveling
- Always use safe water for drinking, preparing foods and beverages, brushing teeth, and washing hands. Safe water is water that has been boiled or treated with water purification tablets or chlorine. Bottled water with unbroken seals and canned/bottled carbonated beverages are also safe to drink and use.
- Eat food that is thoroughly cooked and served hot.
- Wash your hands often with soap and safe water or use 62 percent alcohol based hand-sanitizer.
- Wash yourself, your children, diapers, and clothes away from drinking water sources.
- Use latrines, or sanitation systems like chemical toilets, to dispose of feces. If you don't have access to a latrine or chemical toilet, defecate away from any water source and then bury the feces.
What to do if you have watery diarrhea
- Start drinking water mixed with oral rehydration salts immediately, if available. Try to sip the solution every few minutes as long as you have diarrhea. Use safe water to make your oral rehydration solution.
- Go to a clinic immediately.
- If you do not have oral rehydration salts, sip safe water, and seek medical care and oral rehydration salts immediately.
What to do if you become ill after returning
If you get watery diarrhea within five days of returning from Haiti or the Dominican Republic, seek medical care right away. Tell your doctor or healthcare provider that you have been in an area where there is cholera. Replacing the water and salt lost from your body is the most important part of cholera treatment. Do not travel again until you are well.
For more information and tips about traveling to Haiti, visit www.cdc.gov/haiticholera.