CHOLERA SYMPOSIUM HELD IN POHNPEI

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By Jeff Howard

DEKEHTIK, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (August 23, 2001 - Kaselehlie Press)---Misko Beach Resort was the site of the recent Cholera Symposium, which was sponsored by the FSM Department of Health, Education and Social Affairs, Pohnpei State Government, and the University of Guam Water and Environmental Research Institute of the Western Pacific (WERI).

Cholera topics such as prevention and control, role of education, cooperation among the States, roles of politicians, the effectiveness of the Task Force, and similarities of the present past outbreaks in the FSM were discussed on August 7th and 8th during the two day conference.

Micronesians who received firsthand knowledge during Pohnpei’s recent cholera outbreak and people who are likely to become involved with future prevention throughout the FSM were some of the participants at the conference.

The first day was filled with speakers giving their viewpoints on a variety of topics. The second day was used for smaller group meetings where participants were given a list of questions ranging from the best strategies to keep a cholera epidemic from occurring on their islands to how to overcome the social stigma that goes along with the disease.

Keynote speaker Dr. Phillipe Calain, from the World Health Organization (WHO), talked of a hypothesis of how cholera is spread, effective and ineffective measures for stopping the spread, and successful, inexpensive methods of treating cholera once it has established itself.

Dr. Eliazer Johnson, Pohnpei Community Health Services, gave a history of Pohnpei’s outbreak from the first reported case to its eventual demise. According to Johnson, no decisive evidence was ever obtained as to the origin of the epidemic. Johnson also stated that 75 percent of the people who had cholera on Pohnpei showed no symptoms, which contributed to the rapid rise in infected people.

The head of the Cholera Task Force, Lt. Governor Jack Yakana, explained a major problem in the control of the cholera epidemic. Yakana stated that the social stigma that went along with having cholera caused many people to wait until they were totally incapacitated before they sought treatment. At one point the police had to be recruited to help transport patients to the hospital.

Other topics included the roles of the environment, public sanitation and public policy in the control and prevention of cholera.

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