Screening, chemoprophylaxis, and vaccination are all effective strategies to prevent cholera introduction during large-scale personnel deployments such as that precipitating the 2010 Haiti outbreak. Antimicrobial chemoprophylaxis was estimated to provide the greatest protection at the lowest cost among the approaches recently evaluated by the UN.
Introduction of Vibrio cholerae to Haiti during the deployment of United Nations (UN) peacekeepers in 2010 resulted in one of the largest cholera epidemics of the modern era. Following the outbreak, a UN-commissioned independent panel recommended three pre-deployment intervention strategies to minimize the risk of cholera introduction in future peacekeeping operations: screening for V. cholerae carriage, administering prophylactic antimicrobial chemotherapies, or immunizing with oral cholera vaccines. However, uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of these approaches has forestalled their implementation by the UN. We assessed how the interventions would have impacted the likelihood of the Haiti cholera epidemic.
We developed a stochastic model for cholera importation and transmission, fitted to reported cases during the first weeks of the 2010 outbreak in Haiti. Using this model, we estimated that diagnostic screening reduces the probability of cases occurring by 82% (95% credible interval: 75%, 85%); however, false-positive test outcomes may hamper this approach. Antimicrobial chemoprophylaxis at time of departure and oral cholera vaccination reduce the probability of cases by 50% (41%, 57%) and by up to 61% (58%, 63%), respectively. Chemoprophylaxis beginning 1 wk before departure confers a 91% (78%, 96%) reduction independently, and up to a 98% reduction (94%, 99%) if coupled with vaccination. These results are not sensitive to assumptions about the background cholera incidence rate in the endemic troop-sending country. Further research is needed to (1) validate the sensitivity and specificity of rapid test approaches for detecting asymptomatic carriage, (2) compare prophylactic efficacy across antimicrobial regimens, and (3) quantify the impact of oral cholera vaccine on transmission from asymptomatic carriers.