As health officials put the death toll of Haiti’s cholera outbreak close to 450, ACU will continue its outreach to the small island nation as it has since the earthquake earlier this year.
Just a few months after January’s earthquake left thousands living in tent cities, ACU named Dr. David M. Vanderpool (’82) and his wife Laurie (’81) of Brentwood, Tenn., Parents of the Year for their work with the nonprofit Mobile Medical Disaster Relief, which operates in several countries, including Haiti.
Dr. Vanderpool, a surgeon by training and CEO of MMDR, said this outbreak will be harder to combat because the country’s resources are already so strained trying to recover from the earthquake.
“Haiti had little infrastructure to begin with, so cholera was always a danger – the earthquake just made it more likely,” Dr. Vanderpool said. “I actually expected this outbreak earlier, like in June or even May.”
Cholera is contracted by drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food.
“People get their drinking water from the river, but if you saw this river you wouldn’t even want to go near it.” Dr. Vanderpool said. “They’re using it as their latrines, their livestock are going in it, and it just looks nasty.”
Each month, MMDR sends a group to Haiti to provide medical service and spiritual guidance. Recently, David S. Vanderpool (’10), the Vanderpool’s son and the International Projects Manager of MMDR, went to Haiti as well.
“Because so many of the earthquake refugees are living in squalid conditions within tent cities, cholera is able to spread like wildfire,” Vanderpool said. “Cholera was basically eradicated from the western hemisphere, and because of the lack of sanitation, constant hurricanes stirring up the filth, and a lack of hygiene education, cholera is killing and will continue to do so in Haiti.”
More than 60 percent of people who contract cholera die if the disease goes untreated, Dr. Vanderpool said.
“The best way to treat cholera is to get people more fluid,” Dr. Vanderpool said. “We treat them with IVs, rehydration salts – which are Gatorade-like drinks – and also hook up water filters to five-gallon containers, so after about an hour the people can have five gallons of clean drinking water.”
MMDR is trying to raise money for relief in Haiti, and encourages anyone who wants to make a donation to visit its website, www.mmdr.org/home, and click on the “Donate to Haiti Relief” link.
Dr. Vanderpool encouraged all ACU students to help and said even a $25 donation will go a long way in fighting the disease.
“The cholera vaccines are only about $50, and the water filters cost $25,” Dr. Vanderpool said. “Any donation is really appreciated.”
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