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In Haiti, cholera epidemic spreads

With 73 people hospitalized for cholera in this quake-battered capital, the epidemic is spreading and has officially made its way into Haiti's largest city.

``We are on a rise,'' said Christian Lindmeier, spokesman for the World Health Organization in Haiti. ``The figures will climb.''

The cholera death toll now stands at 583, and 9,123 Haitians have been hospitalized with acute diarrhea, Haiti's health ministry said Tuesday.

The increase comes amid fears that flooding from last week's Hurricane Tomas will trigger more hospitalizations and even more deaths from the illness that is spread by drinking contaminated water.

Haitian government health officials acknowledged that the epidemic is evolving and has not yet peaked.

``This is now a matter of national security,'' said Dr. Gabriel Timothee, director general of the Ministry of Health.

Cholera is now present in half of Haiti's 10 geographical departments.

The spread of the disease to Port-au-Prince is worrisome because the overcrowded capital is not only home to most of the 1.5 million people displaced by the Jan. 12 earthquake and still living in tents or under tarps but also to hundreds of thousands of other people living without access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation.

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