As Hurricane Matthew churned off the coast of Haiti last week, public health officials and aid groups issued warnings not just about the dangers from the storm itself but what could follow: a cholera outbreak.
In 2010, a devastating cholera outbreak infected hundreds of thousands in Haiti just months after a severe earthquake left more than 100,000 dead. Before that outbreak, cholera had not been reported in the country for nearly a century, according to medical literature and a 2011 United Nations report.
And in 2011, a United Nations report acknowledged that relief efforts by the U.N. likely brought cholera to Haiti from another part of the world.
Cholera is a bacterial infection that can lead to potentially serious symptoms of watery diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and muscle cramps, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Often spread through contaminated water or food, the incubation period of the disease can be as short as two hours, meaning it can move quickly through a densely populated area. As the mucus membrane of the intestinal wall is affected, it can lead to diarrhea that can cause severe dehydration.