'This Week' Transcript: Adm. Mike Mullen

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WOOD: The U.N. says is that, you know, go through this paperwork, sign that piece of paperwork, go see that government official, and in the meantime, people die.

GUTMAN: And epidemiologists are telling us they'll continue to die. Hundreds of thousands are expected to become infected over the coming weeks and months.

Matt Gutman, ABC News, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And joining me this morning is ABC's chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser, formerly of the Centers for Disease Control, and he was recently in Haiti.

So, Dr. Besser, thanks for joining us this morning. I think, first and foremost, how big a threat of spread is this cholera outbreak, both to the United States and to the surrounding region?

BESSER: Well, one of the critical things to know about cholera is that 75 percent of those -- of the people who are infected will have absolutely no symptoms, so they're able to take the bacteria and bring it to another country.

In a country like the United States, where there's clean water and adequate sanitation, the likelihood of spread is very, very remote, unless it's introduced into a migrant camp or place that didn't have adequate water.

The Caribbean, though, is a different story, and it's likely that there will be cases introduced to the Caribbean. Whether or not they spread, whether or not they set up shop like they have done in Haiti will depend on the quality of water and sanitation in those countries.

AMANPOUR: And in terms of trying to get it under control in Haiti, we saw in the report that basic, you know, saline solution or rehydration and water is not getting to the people as fast as possible. How and what do they need?

BESSER: Well, you know, cholera is one of the most rewarding diseases to treat. If you get to someone early in the disease, you give them oral rehydration or I.V. fluids, they're going to recover. One dose of antibiotic will kill the bacteria. If you don't, though, if you don't get those critical fluids to people quickly, they can die in less than a day.

I was in Bangladesh last week and was watching how they treat it in the cholera hospital there. And it was like a machine. They had this down to a science.

In Haiti, the numbers coming out are very, very alarming. Ten times the number of people who should be dying from cholera are dying from it. That's a good sign that people are not getting treated quickly enough, that the solutions are not getting to people in time to save those lives.

AMANPOUR: And in terms of the billions of dollars that have been pledged to Haiti, not all of them have got there, but can actually something happen to improve this situation without a real infrastructure improvement, without development?

BESSER: Well, you know, the long-term solution is infrastructure. It's providing water treatment plants. It's repairing those plants that were broken.

But if you look at Haiti before the earthquake, the numbers there were really not good at all. Only 12 percent of the population had piped water into their house that was clean. Only 17 percent of the population used adequate sanitation.

So this earthquake did not hit a situation where you had a country with viable public health infrastructure that need to be repaired. It hit a country that was really at bottom level, a country that did not have infrastructure to begin with.

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