Mind and Body

Woman Returns to Florida From Haiti With Cholera

MIAMI -- Florida has confirmed its first case of cholera linked to the current outbreak in Haiti, but the disease is unlikely to spread because of better sanitation in the U.S., state health officials said Wednesday.

The case involved a woman who had visited family along Haiti's rural Artibonite River, where the outbreak began last month, said Dr. Thomas Torok of the Florida Department of Health.

The woman returned to Collier County in southwest Florida and has recovered. Health officials said privacy laws prohibited them from releasing more information about the woman or her case.

The health department said other suspected cases of cholera were under investigation. No locally acquired cases have been reported.

Florida has a large Haitian community and officials say travel between the state and the Caribbean country has increased since the earthquake. Doctors have been asked to report cases of watery diarrhea in people who recently visited Haiti and to send specimens to state laboratories.

The cholera outbreak in Haiti has spread into the capital, Port-au-Prince, which was devastated by an earthquake in January. The disease has killed more than 1,000 people and hospitalized more than 16,000 in Haiti.

A cholera outbreak in the U.S. is unlikely, officials said.

Haiti's outbreak "really reflects a lot of problems with the infrastructure in Haiti and the inability in Haiti to provide clean water and to safely dispose of sewage," Torok said. "We don't anticipate we'll see any sustained transmission. The risk is so low because our water and sanitation systems really minimize the risk."

People become infected with cholera through water or food contaminated with fecal matter.

"Cholera is not spread easily from person to person, except in situations like Haiti," Torok said.

During the last cholera epidemic, which began in Peru in 1991, Florida saw about 20 cases of imported cholera. None of those patients transmitted the disease to anyone else in the state, officials said.