A deadly cholera outbreak in Haiti is worrying tourism officials in neighboring Dominican Republic and prompting glittery seaside resorts to beef up sanitation measures, officials said Thursday.
The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and borders the central plateau where new cholera cases are being found in an epidemic that has claimed more than 300 lives and hospitalized 4,700 others.
Dominican officials have already stepped up military patrols on the border with Haiti and announced that all people crossing must wash their hands and complete a medical form. Now, tourism and health officials have extended health measures to the nation's east and north, where numerous beach resorts are popular with foreign tourists.
Government epidemiologists are teaching resort workers how cholera is preventable with clean water and sanitation, things that are hard to find in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country next door. They are telling them to promptly report any suspicious cases they might see.
"All the hotels must notify any possible case of cholera," said Health Ministry spokesman Luis Garcia.
Tourism is big business in the Dominican Republic. With 67,300 hotel rooms, the tourist sector generates around 12 percent of the gross domestic product, according to the central bank.
The head of the National Association of Hotels and Restaurants, Luis Llibre, called for stronger measures to prevent any cholera cases in the Dominican Republic but offered no specific solutions.
Meanwhile, health experts warned that border controls will do little to stem the spread of cholera.
"Closing borders is not recommended by WHO. What is recommended is reinforcing surveillance systems" so that early outbreaks can be found and treated, Claire-Lise Chaignat, head of the World Health Organization's global task force on cholera control, told AP by phone from Geneva.