The World Health Organization and U.S. health officials say that after a small spike in cases in 2010, the situation is now stable in the Dominican Republic and that the number of infections is unlikely to grow much higher in the near future.
Both agencies expect that the roughly 26 patients who are believed to have been exposed to the bacteria last year will be cured of the infection.
Still, U.S. health officials are monitoring the situation carefully to see how new patients may be infected, which is why there is no way to confirm definitively that a small spike in infections in 2010 has already been wiped out.
According to health officials, the majority of infections in the Dominican Republic have occurred among maids who live in a home of a Dominican household and who routinely bathe and clean their employers’ homes. Often, she said, the maids have engaged in sexual activity while cleaning clients’ homes.
Dr. Robert Streufert, medical director of the Maryland Health Information Institute and director of the infection control program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said it’s possible that those maids who were infected were discovered when they appeared ill as a result of the infection, and their infections were then treated.
“It could be that a few got infected while bathing in homes and now this is the outcome, but it’s very hard to know,” Streufert said.
He said that sexual activity between the maids and their employers is not always linked to an increase in the infections, because at times the maids were healthy and the owners took care of them. He noted that if there is a problem, that the owners should be held responsible.
“If the employer is telling her they can do whatever they want, they are kind of like disposable in that respect,” Streufert said.