Bridgetown, Barbados, 22 February 2023 (PAHO) – Efforts to strengthen cholera surveillance in the region continued last week with a three-day training, organized by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and delivered by the Costa Rican Institute of Research and Training in Nutrition and Health (INCIENSA).
The virtual training, which took place from 14-16 February, focused on preparing national laboratories in the Caribbean with the means to identify and respond to potential imported cases of the virus.
“It is crucial that National laboratories have the tools they need for the timely detection of Vibrio cholerae,” Jean-Marc Gabastou, Regional Advisor in Public Health Laboratory Services at PAHO. said. “This is vital to ensure countries can respond to outbreaks, treat cases and prevent further spread.”
The training was attended by 86 laboratory technicians from 13 countries and territories in the Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos, as well as representatives from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
The sessions focused on a variety of factors related to the laboratory diagnosis of Vibrio cholerae, the bacteria that causes cholera, including the cultivation of samples from suspected areas; good laboratory practices, biosafety; reading and interpreting biochemical tests; PCR testing for virulence factors, antimicrobial susceptibility; and the correct use of Rapid Diagnostic Tests, among other topics.
The current outbreak of cholera in Haiti began on 2 October 2022, and a first imported case was reported in the Dominican Republic later that month.
While the outbreak is currently contained to Hispaniola, a cholera risk assessment published by PAHO in December 2022 considered the risk of imported cases to other countries and territories of the region to be moderate. This is due to ongoing migration from Haiti, as well as the ability of countries to detect and respond to outbreaks, and the burnout of health workers following the pandemic.
PAHO has called on all countries of the region to strengthen and maintain cholera surveillance and to prepare to detect and respond to suspected cases early in order to provide adequate treatment and prevent spread.
Cholera is an acute infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It causes watery diarrhea which, without timely treatment, can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death.