Uncontrolled vomiting hits first, along with profuse, watery diarrhea. Within minutes, your body begins to dehydrate, your muscles will clench and cripple. Your kidneys will fail next. Then your brain goes into a coma, and your body goes into shock. You’ll come out of it though, eventually, if you find treatment right away. But if you can’t find treatment, you could die. If treatment comes too late, you could die. If the symptoms strike so fast that you have no idea what hit, it’s likely you will die.
This is cholera, a disease that has infected close to a million people in Haiti, and depending on which numbers you credit, has killed between 10,000 and 30,000. Though easily prevented and treated, its onset is sometimes so sudden and severe that victims can die of systemic shock within an hour of the first stomach cramp.
Not a trace of cholera in Haiti had been reported in more than a century worth of health data. But it exploded upon arrival in October, 2010. One hospital near the epicenter of the outbreak admitted more than 400 cholera patients in a single day – just three days after the first reported fatality. Forty-four of those patients were dead by nightfall.
It took only a few weeks for cholera to reach every corner of the country. It seeped into neighboring Dominican Republic almost as fast, and eventually sickened people in the US, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, and a long list of other countries across the Caribbean. Haiti has become ground zero for the world’s deadliest cholera outbreak.