Cuba says cholera kills three, blames bad water wells

HAVANA Wed Jul 4, 2012 4:51am IST

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HAVANA (Reuters) - Three people have died of cholera and another 50 have been diagnosed with the illness in an outbreak caused by contaminated well water, the Cuban government said on Tuesday.

It blamed recent heavy rains and high temperatures for the water problems, which forced the closure of some wells and the chlorination of the water system in the hardest hit areas.

The Public Health Ministry said in a statement that the township of Mazanillo in the southeast province of Granma had suffered the most cholera cases, which have occurred in the last few weeks, but that the outbreak is slowing.

It said the three people who died ranged in age from 66 to 95 and suffered from other, chronic health problems.

Cholera outbreaks have been rare, or at least not publicized, in Cuba since the 1959 revolution and the creation of a national health system by the communist government.

Cholera causes intestinal problems and can lead to death if not treated promptly and properly.

Cuba has touted its medical role in nearby Haiti, where Cuban doctors and nurses have worked since that country's 2010 earthquake to, among other things, contain a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 7,000 people.

It is not unusual for Cubans to complain that the government sends too many of its doctors abroad to earn money for the country and promote its humanitarian image and has left the national health system short of qualified medical personnel and medicines.

Cuba's health ministry said it has the "resources necessary for the adequate attention to patients in all the health institutions" during this cholera outbreak.

(Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Kevin Gray and Christopher Wilson)

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