Cholera in Cuba

Reports of a cholera outbreak in Cuba have rattled government officials who see any bad news as potentially affecting tourism, the Caribbean nation’s largest source of hard currency. But to date, the disease appears mostly restricted to the southeastern province of Granma, and unless there is a resurgence, should not threaten next year’s tourist season.

Nonetheless, Canada’s Public Health Agency (PHAC) has warned Canadians travelling to Cuba to avoid the areas affected by the outbreak (some deaths have been reported in the Havana neighbourhood of Mantilla), and to practice safe food and water precautions while in the country.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholera and people usually become infected from drinking or eating contaminated water or food. It causes watery diarrhea and rapid dehydration which can be life-threatening.

So stay away from slurpies, ices or popsicle-like refreshments sold by street vendors.  Better yet, confine your eating and drinking to places you wouldn’t hesitate taking your kids or beloved mother to.

By mid June, government officials admitted to 170 confirmed cases of cholera and five deaths, but independent sources put those figures considerably higher.

Cuba is under considerable economic pressure these days, due to some failed foreign partnership ventures (some in tourism) and some dry oil rig explorations off their north coast. At the present time Cuba imports about 85 percent of its oil from Castro’s pal President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, but he too is in an election battle and is fighting cancer so is not the most reliable source in the long run.

Consequently, tourism from foreign countries, of which Canada is the leader, is more highly prized than ever.

Before you go, though, we strongly suggest you keep checking the Canadian government travel advisories  (go to Travel Links at the top of our home page) to check on official notices about not only cholera, but public safety issues and travel documentation matters.

DFAIT also warns that Canadians travelling to Cuba must be prepared to show proof of travel health insurance on entry to the country. Many private medical facilities will require payment for services up front. And travellers should note that Cuban authorities will not allow anyone with outstanding medical bills to leave the country.

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