Health officials in rural Haiti are investigating a possible disease outbreak that could be responsible for dozens of deaths and a surge in hospital patients, U.N. aid workers said Wednesday.
Haitian government officials say at least 19 people have died after suffering brief bouts of fever, vomiting and severe diarrhea, with dozens of more deaths suspected. Most are reportedly children.
Hundreds of patients reporting those symptoms have overwhelmed a hospital in the seaside town of St. Marc, some 45 miles (about 70 kilometers) north of the capital of Port-au-Prince, Catherine Huck, country deputy for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told The Associated Press.
It remains unclear if the cases are linked. U.N. and Haitian health care workers are running tests for cholera, typhoid and other diseases, with results possible on Thursday, said OCHA-Haiti spokeswoman Jessica DuPlessis.
"We are trying to connect all the dots," Huck said.
The Artibonite is Haiti's most important farming region. The area was not severely damaged in the Jan. 12 earthquake but received thousands of refugees from the wrecked capital to the south, many of whom stayed.
Hospitals in the area have enough supplies to respond to a fatal outbreak of diarrhea, including rehydration salts, for about three days, DuPlessis said. Officials overseeing sanitation and water in areas affected by the earthquake, where 1.3 million people live under tarps and tents in squatter settlements, have also been notified.