>> As Zika spreads throughout South America, the Caribbean, and even the U.S. mainland, health officials worry that a major epidemic may be threatening Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. With trash collecting in the streets and two rainy seasons providing ample opportunity for mosquitos spreading the virus to breed, the number of cases could rise rapidly.
Potentially devastating the population. And any such outbreak would put a severe strain on an already fragile healthcare system. Reuter's Makini Brice is in the capital, Port-au-Prince.>> Haiti's health system has not been strong for quite some time. It was particularly devastated by the earthquake in 2010, in which 300,000 people passed away.
This year in particular, there was a strike in the public health facilities. When we have a House Ministry of limited resources, it's difficult to prioritize Zika when the symptoms for Zika are so small. Even if the potential consequences are enormous. Maybe still suffering from a cholera epidemic, malnutrition.
Zika is kind of on the back burner, I think, for many people here.>> Haiti reported its first case of the virus back in January, but widespread fumigation programs only began last month and public service materials warning of Zika's dangers have still not been broadly distributed. Part of the problem may be that authorities don't realize how big a problem the virus is.
While Haiti's reported about 3,000 cases of Zika, fewer than its most prosperous neighbor, the Dominican Republic, health official say the real number is likely much higher.>> The World Health Organization in the Americas told me that, he knows for sure, that there's underreporting. Because they are not collecting numbers from Zika for every single health facility.
He says also, the fact that statistics are generally not great in Haiti.>> The country did set up a task force to combat the virus in May. Sources also say the US has provided $3 million in Zika funding, an attempt to forestall what could be a health catastrophe.