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By Reuben Kalaung

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, May 11) – The outbreak of pertusis in East Sepik province has claimed the lives of 12 children between the ages of one and five in Papua New Guinea.

[PIR Editor's note: East Sepik Province is in the northwest region of Papua New Guinea's mainland peninsula.]

Better known as whooping cough, the communicable disease has swept across East Yangoru and the Sepik plains killing these children.

[PIR Editor's note: According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control website, pertussis is caused by a bacterial infection, often manifested in young children and spreads through direct contact with infected respiratory mucous discharge.]

However, plans are in place to curtail one of the biggest outbreaks of the disease in the province since 1999.

The outbreak was detected some three weeks ago in Kiniambo and Haripmo, which recorded up to 80 serious cases per day.

Reports from health workers at sites along the Sepik plains revealed four new deaths on Tuesday.

Only one case was reported at Sara village, West Yangoru, and health workers were working around the clock to stop the spread of the disease.

Provincial pediatrician Louis Samiak and Dr Stenard Hiashiri of Maprik Hospital have declared a state of emergency on the outbreak.

"It is a definite emergency. Both of us have agreed on it and we have rescheduled our station and mobile teams throughout the areas," said Dr. Hiashiri.

The disease is spreading easily through air droplets with the wind direction.

A brief meeting was convened on Tuesday in Maprik with discussions on how and where to establish health stations and mobile patrol teams.

Funding and logistics were pointed as major obstacles to effectively execute their plans.

The rainy period is continuing to play havoc to feeder roads linking the areas hardest hit with the outbreak.

A patrol team is now in the Sepik plains to confirm if there were cases of pertusis so that a helicopter could be hired to reach those villages that are not accessible by road.

In the mean time, Dr. Hiashiri is lodging an appeal to provincial members and donor agencies to assist with 30 water tanks for the supply of fresh water.

Most wells have flooded thus creating unhygienic and conducive grounds for further infections.

May 12, 2006

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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