PORT-AU-PRINCE (Haiti) - A 3-YEAR-OLD boy from a Port-au-Prince tent city was confirmed by health authorities to have cholera on Monday, proving Haiti's growing epidemic has spread from outlying areas to the country's crowded capital.

The confirmation raises the peril for an estimated 2.5 million to 3 million people in the city, nearly half of whom have been living in tents or under tarps in easily flooded encampments since the Jan 12 earthquake destroyed their homes.

Samples from more than 100 other patients in the capital were being tested for cholera. The outbreak has already killed at least 544 people in Haiti, Health Ministry Executive Director Gabriel Timothee told The Associated Press.

The boy was tested after being taken to the Bernard Mevs/Project Medishare hospital Oct 31 suffering from severe dehydration, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. He was treated with oral re-hydration, IV fluids and antibiotics and released.

A stool sample tested by Haiti's national laboratory contained vibrio cholerae 01, the bacteria causing the disease, the chief medical officer, Dr Antonia Eyssallenne, confirmed to AP in an email. The boy's family had not traveled in more than a year or had contact with anyone from the Artibonite Valley, where the epidemic was first registered and has done its most ferocious damage.

Mr Timothee said many of the patients hospitalised 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.

Cholera confirmed in capital