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Frequently Asked Questions

Avoiding Infection (4)

submitted by Joanne Perodin

Health education flyers in Kreyol are available for download in the link below.


Am an infectious disease specialist and working for WHO-Geneva and specialising in communicable disease control in conflict and disaster, currently in PaP working with OPS-OMS (WHO-Haiti) to support them for cholera response.

There IS a huge risk of transmission of cholera from dead bodies if those people died of cholera. Normally after disasters, dead bodies are as a result of the disaster not due to an infectious disease and thus epidemics are rare. The exception is for deaths cholera and viral haemorrhagic fevers (such as Ebola).

For cholera deaths, bodies need to be decontaminated with 2% HTH and ALL orifices plugged with cotton soaked with 2% HTH and then placed in a body bag. The body and area where body was including the body bag needs to be sprayed before and after moving the body. Personal protective equipment must be used by body handlers who need to know how to use spayers and handle the body. The aim is to decontaminate the body and any fluids that could have escaped from the body or could escape during the body's transport. It requires training and not a simple procedure but safe if correct infection control procedures used.

Cholera outbreaks have been known to amplify after funerals and feasts.

Dr Michelle Gayer. World Health Organization.


There are several ways people can get infected with cholera and there are several ways to avoid getting infected.
There are several mechanisms in which cholera can be passed without notice from an infected person -- even a carrier with no symptoms -- to a previously non-infected person.   Personal hygiene, clean water, and good sanitation and the basics. Water for consumption, food preparation, bathing (it can get into your mouth) needs to be purified, which can be done by additives and/or boiling. Basically, there needs to be good sanitation and avoidance of ingesting the cholera plankton. There is the fact too, this prevention may be impractical in the current state of tent cities in Haiti.


If labs and/or clinical staffs are overtaxed and cases require immediately medical treatment, after establishing that an outbreak of cholera has begun in the community -- treat immediately with ORS (supplemented with antibiotics in severe cases, when possible).  No further testing is necessary.  Use clinical symptoms as confirmation.