Dominican Republic Takes Precautions After First Case of Cholera Hits Country

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A Haitian citizen who lives near the tourist mecca of Punta Cana was the first confirmed case of cholera in the Dominican Republic.

The man, identified as Wilmo Louwes, a 32-year-old construction worker, was being treated in a hospital in the eastern town of Higüey. Louwe was home in Haiti – which has been devastated by the disease – on vacation and returned by bus to the Dominican Republic on Nov. 12.

“We found the bus he traveled in and we took the proper steps to sanitize it,” Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gómez said in a press conference.

Like Haiti, the Dominican Republic, home to 10 million people, had never had a case of cholera until this year. The country has tightened border security, stepped up health checks and cleaned up its rivers ever since the disease, spread by contaminated water, broke out in Haiti.

Among the Dominican initiatives has been to search homes and detain people suspected of trying to get across the border without proper documentation and who may be infected. By Tuesday they had detained 170 people, authorities said.

"This really is a serious danger," Santos Ramírez of the Dominican Medical Board told Agence France Presse. "Cholera could become a pandemic if it spreads on this side of the island. We must avoid a disaster of that scope."

The epidemic has claimed over 1,000 lives and hospitalized nearly 17,000 people so far in Haiti.

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