Cholera expected to kill 4000 in Panama
PANAMA CITY — The local representative of the Pan-American Health Organisation, Oscar Falla, said on August 7 that 4000 Panamanians may be killed by the cholera epidemic which is sweeping parts of Latin America.
The epidemic, first reported in Peru in January, later spread to all of the country's neighbours — Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador.
More than a quarter million have so far contracted the disease in Latin America. Peru's official cholera death toll is 2200, but unofficial estimates put the figure much higher.
In June the first cholera cases were diagnosed in Mexico, and the disease has now reached Guatemala. The spread of the disease to the rest of Central America is thought to be imminent.
According to Falla, an estimated 43,000 people may contract the disease in Panama.
Health minister Guillermo Rolla said that no cholera case had so far been diagnosed in Panama, but local hospitals and other health units had been alerted.
Falla's predictions were made at a time when the association of doctors and dentists of the state-operated social security service threatened to go on strike to protest against the poor condition of Panamanian hospitals.
Miguel Calobrides, president of the association, told reporters that many hospitals were "in extremely poor condition" and could not provide adequate services for the 650,000 people who obtain social security benefits. — Inter Press Service/Pegasus