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By Tanya M.C. Mendiola

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (March 1, 2001 – Pacific Daily News)---Pohnpei officials hope a ban on food coming from the island will be lifted, after declaring Pohnpei free of cholera.

The island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia has battled an outbreak of cholera since April. About 3,800 people from among the island's 35,000 residents were affected by the bacterial disease and 20 died, said Eliuel Pretrick, secretary of health, education and social affairs for the Federated States of Micronesia.

"Pohnpei state, which was having a cholera epidemic in the last few months has been declared cholera free," Pretrick said. "This is just a little over four weeks."

Pohnpei's health officials are on island this week attending the first day of the Pacific Island Health Officers Association biannual conference. The regional health association's members include health officials from American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Republic of Palau.

This year's talks will focus on non-communicable chronic diseases.

Health officials from Guam and the northern Marianas were notified earlier this week of the Pohnpei government's declaration, and said they would review information before deciding whether to lift restrictions banning the importation of food from Pohnpei.

"We will appreciate it if the restrictions will be lifted," Pretrick said.

Peter John Camacho, Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services' chief public health officer, said a recommendation will be given to public health Director Dennis Rodriguez by the end of this week.

"Our epidemiological team is reviewing data we received," Camacho said.

Joseph Villagomez, CNMI secretary of health, said he would also notify government officials of Pohnpei's cholera-free declaration.

Cholera is usually spread through contaminated food or water, causing profuse diarrhea and vomiting. The disease is easily treated with antibiotic and oral rehydration solutions or intravenous fluids, but can cause fatal dehydration in victims who do not seek help early enough, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Pohnpei officials initially believed the cholera bacteria was spreading through contaminated food, but later said the bacteria spread in small surface water systems in rural villages, files state.

The last positive case in Pohnpei was reported January 19. No other cases have been found as of February 23, said Simao Nanpei, Pohnpei's director of health services.

Pohnpei health workers are continuing tests and surveillance, said Jean-Paul Chaine, regional epidemiologist for the Pacific Island Health Officers Association.

"We are still doing environmental testing," Chaine said. "Anyone who comes in with diarrhea is tested."

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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