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Cholera: Three Key Steps to Stopping an Outbreak

Cholera, a virulent illness that comes on quick and can be fatal mere hours after symptoms appear, kills more than 100,000 people a year.

The infection is characterized by chronic diarrhea, rapidly leading to life-threatening dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. And because nearly three-quarters of those infected with cholera don't develop symptoms, the bacteria in their fecal matter can enter water streams unmitigated and go on to sicken myriad others.

Haitian communities are, not surprisingly, experiencing a surge in cholera cases. Slums and camps for displaced persons are hotbeds for outbreaks because of poor infrastructure, overcrowding and a lack of adequate sanitation.

More than 250 people have succumbed to the illness already, as aid workers try to contain outbreaks and prevent them from reaching the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. So far, officials are cautiously optimistic that the multinational strategy will prove effective.

"We have registered a diminishing in numbers of deaths and of hospitalized people in the most critical areas. ... The tendency is that it is stabilizing, without being able to say that we have reached a peak," Gabriel Thimote, director-general of Haiti's Health Department, told reporters.

How will they do it? Surge Desk breaks it down.

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