Port-Au-Prince, Haiti — The death toll has risen to at least 1,344 in the cholera outbreak in Haiti that has sickened nearly 57,000 people, the Haitian government said Monday.
The announcement came as international health officials predicted that the scale of Haiti’s cholera epidemic will exceed initial estimates of 200,000 over coming months.
“Having seen how the bacteria is behaving in this environment with these people, having seen just how poor and how hungry the people are, we know we have to revise our numbers up,” said Nyka Alexander, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, in a phone call with CNN.
Health workers say the Haitian population lacks immunity to cholera and Haitian medical workers lack experience treating the infection because the bacterium has not been detected on the island in more than a century.
“Another factor why this epidemic has spread as far as it has and why it will continue to spread, is dirty water, poor sanitation, no toilets, malnutrition and poor access to health centers,” Alexander said. “People have to walk five hours to a health center and if you have diarrhea you’re not going to make it.
She added, “The disease is showing the weaknesses in the country.”
The World Health Organization says it has distributed enough rehydration salts for 60,000 people and enough intravenous fluids to treat 20,000 more severe cases of cholera.
But last week the United Nations announced it had received less than 10 percent of the emergency $164 million it requested to battle the epidemic.
International aid workers need money to deal with two major shortages: a lack of doctors and nurses trained to treat cholera, and “trucks to carry dead bodies,” Alexander said.