YAWS EPIDEMIC HITS KAVIENG IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA

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KAVIENG, Papua New Guinea (January 13, 1999 - Post-Courier)---Kavieng General Hospital authorities have reported an outbreak of yaws, with more than 800 people now suffering from the disease in the Taskul area, New Ireland Province.

Yaws is a contagious tropical skin disease which causes a large red swelling to develop over the body.

The swelling later becomes infected and forms into sores or ulcers.

Reports reaching the provincial health office said the disease was spreading rapidly, with records showing that many people had contracted it in a period of less than seven days last December.

Chief disease controller in New Ireland, Peter Bale, who was in the areas last week, described it as a communicable disease which could develop and spread in less than 48 hours.

He said if the disease could not be treated quickly, the number of people affected by the epidemic would increase rapidly.

According to his report, incidence of the disease was first noted between mid-1997 and 1998, with a higher incidence noted towards the end of last year.

Mr. Bale said the Health Department in Port Moresby has been notified and a team of medical specialists will be sent to the area and surrounding areas to control the disease.

Mr. Bale identified unhygienic living conditions as the main reason for the rapid spread of the disease.

He said the epidemic was not common in New Ireland Province and health authorities were trying to identify the precise causes of the disease.

Provincial health adviser Dr. Joachim Taulo said he has sent health workers to carry out investigations on the outbreak at Taskul and Djaul and would be receiving some of their reports this week.

The Kavieng hospital authorities are also still facing difficulties in obtaining re-agents to carry out tests on the recent typhoid epidemic which hit the province during the past two months. The hospital has reported four deaths so far in relation to typhoid in December.

Mr. Bale said the re-agents for tests would cost K 120 for five milliliters of the solution (NOTE: US$ 1 = K 2.08333 on January 13, 1999). He said it would have to be purchased overseas because there were currently no re-agents in the country's major hospitals. He said if there were hundreds of unreported cases of typhoid carriers, the Government would have to spend more than K 10,000 in buying the re-agents because five milliliters would permit tests for only three carriers.

Provincial administrator Colonel Lima Dotanoa said the funds to purchase the re-agents would have to be allocated under the health sectoral development program by the Health Department.

He said a total of K 150,000 was made available under the program in the last allocation but the delay in the release of a set amount under the program had made it difficult for the hospital to purchase the re-agents.

Dr. Taulo said the typhoid situation would come to a standstill if funds were not made available, while controlling the disease would not be effective.

Meanwhile, the Kavieng Town Authority is still maintaining a ban on the sale of cooked food in open market areas.

Town Mayor Rommy Tobo reiterated the authority's stand to stop the sale of cooked food in order to prevent the spread of typhoid.

During a meeting yesterday with six ward members, the authority received good response by the community regarding the stopping of selling cooked food in markets.

Mr. Tobo said the ban would remain in place until health authorities were satisfied the epidemic was under control.

Mr. Tobo warned the general public that if anyone was found selling cooked food in market areas or in homes, they would be charged.

He said the authority implemented the ban to help decrease the spread of the typhoid epidemic.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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