Haiti’s cholera epidemic has spread into the capital endangering nearly three million people.
Nearly half of those in Port-au-Prince are camped in tents, still homeless after the January earthquake.
Health authorities said tests confirmed a three-year-old boy from a quake refugee tent camp who had not been out of the city had caught the disease. More than 100 other suspected cholera cases among city residents also were being tested.
The outbreak has already killed at least 544 people in Haiti.
The boy from the Route Batiment camp was tested after being taken to hospital last month suffering from severe dehydration, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. He was treated and antibiotics and was released.
He tested positive for cholera despite his family having not travelled in more than a year or having contact with anyone from the Artibonite Valley, where the epidemic was first registered and has wreaked its most damage.
Many of the patients taken to hospital in the capital with cholera are believed to have recently arrived from the Artibonite Valley, an agricultural area where more than 6,400 of Haiti’s known 8,138 cases have been recorded.
At least 114 of the people suspected of having the disease in the capital are in the Cite Soleil slum, the large oceanside shantytown closest to the valley.
Since its discovery in late October, the disease has spread to half of Haiti’s 10 administrative regions, or departments. More than 200 people have been hospitalised in the West department, where Port-au-Prince is located.
Cholera had never been documented in Haiti before its appearance last month.
In little more than three weeks it is suspected of infecting tens of thousands of people, though only about a quarter of people infected normally develop symptoms of serious diarrhoea, vomiting and fever. Nearly 4% of the thousands hospitalised have died, most from extreme shock brought on by dehydration.
Officials are concerned that floods triggered by Hurricane Tomas on Friday and Saturday could exacerbate the spread of the disease, which is transmitted through the consumption of fecal matter contained in contaminated water or food. The release of a dam on the Artibonite River caused the infected waterway to swell on Monday, but there were no reports of major flooding.
Living conditions in Port-au-Prince’s earthquake camps have “deteriorated as a result of the storm,” charity Partners in Health said.
“Standing water, mud, lack of garbage collection, and limited sanitation availability make the camps a potential flashpoint for cholera outbreak,” it said.
Humanitarian groups and Haitian health care workers have been working in Port-au-Prince to prepare for cholera, informing residents about preventative measures such as regular hand-washing and sufficiently cooking food as well as setting up clinics in expectation that the disease would spread to the city.
The origin of the outbreak continues to be a source for debate.
Analysis has found that the cholera outbreak in Haiti most closely matches a strain of the disease found in South Asia.
Public health experts have called for an aggressive investigation into the origin of the outbreak.
They say that should include looking at the unconfirmed hypothesis that cholera was introduced by UN peacekeepers from Nepal, a South Asian nation where the disease is endemic.
Those peacekeepers are at a UN base on a tributary of the Artibonite River, which has been found to be contaminated with cholera.