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TARAWA, Kiribati (April 28, 1999 - PACNEWS/ Radio Australia)---Health authorities in Kiribati are confident that a still unknown virus that left four people dead has peaked and the epidemic is nearly over.

Two men and two children died and more than 500 people have been affected by the unidentified virus that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting.

Most of the persons affected live in the capital of Tarawa.

"We are essentially in the third week of this diarrhea epidemic. We think that it has peaked because fewer people are coming to our outpatient department at Tungaru hospital," said Secretary of Health Dr. Takieta Kienene.

He said health workers are still trying to discover the identity of the virus and expect a definite answer when blood samples sent to Australia are evaluated.

"Most of these cases respond to oral rehydration salts without actually giving them antibiotics. That's one of the reason why we are saying this is of a viral origin," Dr. Kienene said.

Residents of Tarawa have been advised to seek immediate medical help when they experience symptoms of the disease.

They also are urged to boil drinking water as a preventative measure.

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