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Cholera and vaccine experts urge United States to stockpile vaccine
Date:11/24/2010

As the cholera epidemic in Haiti continues to rage, public health workers are focusing their efforts on treating the tens of thousands who have already been hospitalized with cholera-like symptoms and providing clean water and adequate sanitation to control the disease's spread.

Could the United States be doing more to help the situation? In an editorial published in the November 24, 2010, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, vaccine and infectious disease specialists Matthew Waldor of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Peter Hotez of George Washington University and the Sabin Vaccine Institute, and John Clemens of the International Vaccine Institute in Korea note that safe and reasonably effective vaccines are available that could complement these efforts. These vaccines are in short supply, however, and the scientists state that the United States should stockpile cholera vaccines for rapid deployment to parts of the world that become at high-risk for the disease.

"The resistance to vaccination is truly baffling," says Waldor, a microbiologist and infectious disease specialist whose laboratory at Brigham and Women's Hospital studies cholera and other pathogenic bacteria that infect the gut. "The point of view [regarding controlling cholera in Haiti] has been that effort should be made toward establishing field hospitals to provide life-saving rehydration therapy. I totally understand that. However, I think it's a false dichotomy to say we can only do one or the other."

The World Health Organization estimates that three to five million people develop cholera each year. Untreated, the disease, which causes severe diarrhea and extreme dehydration, can kill within hours. It is most prevalent in areas where basic infrastructure, clean water, and sanitation are not available. Although the disease is usually treatable by replacing lost fluids, such interventions can be difficult to administer in regions that lack adequate medical faci
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Contact: Jennifer Michalowski
michalow@hhmi.org
301-215-8576
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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