Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic Could Have Been Prevented With Low-cost Approaches, Study Finds


Cholera remains a critical risk for U.N. peacekeeping operations, years after Nepalese troops inadvertently introduced the disease to Haiti in fall of 2010 and triggered one of the worst epidemics in recent years.

New research by scientists at Yale School of Public Health, in partnership with colleagues at the Yale Law School, has found that simple and inexpensive interventions—which the United Nations has yet to implement—would be effective in preventing future outbreaks of the bacterial infection.

Researchers developed a mathematical model for the arrival of peacekeepers carrying cholera and the early spread of the disease in Haiti. The model estimated the probability of an epidemic occurring under current U.N. protocols, and compared this against the probability of an epidemic if peacekeepers had been given antibiotics for cholera, screened or vaccinated. A team of independent scientific and medical experts had previously recommended that the United Nations consider these interventions to limit peacekeepers’ risk for spreading cholera. However, their implementation by the UN has been complicated by a lack of evidence to support decision-making.