Quake-hit Haiti and its aid partners fought on Friday to stem a cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 200 people and sickened more than 2,000, and officials expect to see more cases before it is contained.
Although the main outbreak area was north of Port-au-Prince, which bore the brunt of the Jan. 12 earthquake, humanitarian agencies were on high alert to prevent the disease from spreading to crowded survivors' camps in the capital.
The cholera epidemic was the worst medical emergency to strike the poor, disaster-prone Caribbean nation since the devastating earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people.
It was also the first cholera epidemic in Haiti in a century, the World Health Organization said. But no confirmed cases were reported in Haiti's rubble-strewn capital, where 1.3 million quake homeless are living in tent cities.
Health teams were closely monitoring the survivor camps and oral rehydration liquids were being prepared for quick use.
The Pan American Health Organization, the regional office for the WHO, said it had deployed medical teams, medicines and clean water to the outbreak zone around Saint-Marc in the central Artibonite region, and to the Central Plateau to deal with more cases of the virulent diarrheal disease. If left untreated, it can kill victims in hours through dehydration.
"We expect it to get bigger, we have to expect that," PAHO Deputy Director Jon Andrus told a briefing in Washington.
He said the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, should be alert to the risk of cholera spreading across the border.
UN officials, citing updated figures from Haitian authorities late on Friday, said 196 deaths had been recorded. They also said a total of 2,634 Haitians had been stricken with cholera as of Friday evening.