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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 24) – Australian authorities have clamped down on travel to Papua New Guinea after a malaria outbreak on Saibai Island in the Torres Strait.

The Saibai Island Council virtually closed its borders on Saturday to Papua New Guineans in a bid to restrict movement between neighboring regions.

Three women from the island, 3 kilometers off Papua New Guinea, are in Thursday Island Hospital recovering from a serious strain of the mosquito-borne disease.

Tropical Public Health Unit physician Jeffrey Hanna said it was likely the women were infected on Saibai after the disease was brought in by PNG visitors.

SIC executive officer Bryan Miller said day permits issued under a treaty between Saibai and villages in PNG had been stopped until the outbreak was contained.

Saibai Islanders had also been asked not to travel to the neighboring country. Mr Miller said it was hoped travel could recommence within three weeks.

Dr Hanna said although malaria was seen frequently in Torres Strait health clinics, most of it was acquired in PNG.

"Outbreaks of malaria in the Torres Strait are, fortunately, very rare," he said. "As malaria mosquitoes are known to inhabit Saibai Island, residents are urged to wear insect repellent, especially if they are outside during dusk or at night, when the malaria mosquito bites."

He said anyone who becomes unwell with fever and chills should go to the local health clinic immediately.

Vector control officers from Cairns and Thursday Island will visit Saibai Island this week to conduct mosquito control, including fogging and spraying.

May 25, 2004

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