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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cholera reaches the Dominican Republic

Health authorities in the Dominican Republic confirmed the nation's first case of cholera, just says after the government took drastic steps to limit border traffic with Haiti, where an epidemic has taken more than 1,000 lives.

A 32-year-old Haitian man who works construction in the Dominican Republic and visited his homeland for a two-week vacation returned Friday vomitting and with diarrhea, Health Minister Bautista Rojas said at a press conference Tuesday evening.

The man, identified as Wilmo Lowes, is in stable condition at a hospital in Higüey, in eastern Dominican Republic, Rojas said

``He went to a health center in the capital on Friday. It wasn't a very strong case of diarrhea, so he was released the next day,'' Rojas said.

``In light of the fact that his illness was light, he decided to continue to his final destination, Higüey.''

When he arrived there he was hospitalized again and the cholera was confirmed.

The man was in Haiti from Oct. 31 until Friday, when he traveled by bus from Haiti back to the Dominican Republic, sending authorities scrambling to determine whether he could have contaminated anyone along the way, press reports said.

Twelve other suspected cases were tested but turned out negative. One person had salmonella poisoning and others suffered from routine diarrhea, according to a Health Ministry statement.

Three more cases were confirmed on the Haiti side of the border, according to press reports.

The Dominican government had already taken measures to limit border crossings in Dajabón, where a chaotic market takes place twice a week. Haitian merchants regularly cross the border to the Dominican border town and sell their wares.

The market was closed for several days while authorities determined how best to contain the number of Haitians visiting Dajabón.

The market reopened this week, with merchants limited to a small lot and prohibited from selling certain foods and used clothes.

``This is not a matter of commerce,'' Rojas said last week. ``It's a matter of health.''

More than 1,000 people have died in Haiti from the illness, which is carried largely by drinking contaminated water.

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