The cholera epidemic that began in October 2010 on the Caribbean island of Haiti, several months after the massive earthquake, has accounted for greater than 700,000 cases and 8,500 deaths. The mosquito borne virus, chikungunya, has taken hold on the entire island of Hispaniola. In Haiti, infectious diseases run rampant, poverty rules much of the country and education is lacking.
Dr. John Carroll is an internist from Peoria, Illinois who for the past number of years, spends two to four months a year in Haiti, working in the country’s clinics and hospitals with the NGO, Haitian Hearts.
I got the opportunity to talk to John about his “boots on the ground” view of the situation in Haiti (Listen below).
Concerning the newly arrived chikungunya, Dr. Carroll says, “I think it [Haiti] is completely ripe for a massive epidemic of chikungunya”. Rainy season, a bountiful of mosquito breeding sites and a very poor sanitation system would all contribute to this.
Cholera, as one would expect after nearly 3 1/2 years, is not nearly as bad as 2010 and 2011 when Carroll said he was treating 300 cases per day.
Despite the official numbers of cholera cases and deaths, which are enormous indeed, Dr Carroll says, “the number has to be much, much higher with so many cases that are never even known about.”
What other problems does Carroll see on a regular basis? Respiratory diseases in kids, a lot of vomiting and diarrhea, skin diseases, typhoid fever, hepatitis and a whole lot of TB.
In addition to battling infectious diseases, Carroll discussed his work with patients with congenital heart disease, which involves bringing the patients to the United States for treatment. According to their website, during the past 18 years, Haitian Hearts has brought more than 160 patients to the United States and helped thousands more in Haiti through general medical work in clinics and hospitals.
If anyone is interested in helping the great work of Haitian Hearts, you can visit their website at www.haitianhearts.org. Dr Carroll said their biggest need is pediatric cardiovascular medical centers with administration who are open to operating on a Haitian child.