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PALIKIR, Federated States of Micronesia (July 20, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---The country’s economy could be severely crippled unless a ban on produce to Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is lifted, officials said.

Guam and CNMI banned food from the FSM because of a cholera outbreak on Pohnpei earlier this year, which has already killed at least 15 people and made more than 2,000 people sick since April.

FSM’s director of health, Dr. Eliuel Pretrick, said he is working with health officials from Guam and CNMI to rectify the problem.

He said the disease continues to spread throughout the islands with about 20 to 30 patients being admitted to hospitals everyday.

"It is spread through contaminated food, water and personal hygiene," he said. "The bacteria may get into drinking water. (It spreads) when someone uses the toilet facility and fails to wash (his or her) hands."

Pretrick urges residents to wash their hands regularly and also to wash all foods before cooking or eating them.

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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