October 29th, 2010
11:31 PM ET

One cholera carrier's story

The tragic story of 22-year-old Saint Helene and her 15-month old daughter Cherie shows how quickly cholera spreads from rural to urban areas, with deadly results.

About two weeks ago, Saint Helene visited friends in Artibonite, a city about an hour north of Port Au Prince. When Saint Helene and Cherie headed back to Port-au-Prince a few days later, they felt perfectly fine. What Saint Helene or Cherie could not have known at that time is they were likely carrying the cholera bacteria back to the nation’s capital.

Withing a few days, Saint Helene became suddenly ill. Within a couple hours, she was terribly dehydrated from diarrhea, and began to vomit. A good Samaritan brought mother and her young child to the closest hospital, where Saint Helene began treatment for cholera. She had an IV placed, and was given salts to replace the lost electrolytes. All of this happened within a few hours, relatively speedy, especially given the logistical challenges of Haiti.

And, with that, Saint Helene and Cherie illustrated several important lessons about cholera. Cherie, who was not sick, reminded us the vast majority of patients with the cholera bacteria actually don’t have any illness at all. Also, it was only several days after an exposure before Saint Helene began to feel ill. She was now getting simple, yet effective treatment.

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