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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 30) – Latest reports now have whooping cough breaking out in the Northern Province districts bordering Morobe Province. The virus was first reported after it had claimed several lives in East Sepik, and later Madang.

[PIR editor’s note: Morobe, among Papua New Guinea’s 20 provinces, is located to the south of Madang province on the PNG mainland.]

Yesterday, Morobe, next inline for an over-land spread, announced through Governor Luther Wenge that it would "seal" its boundaries to prevent the spread of the virus among its people.

Late yesterday, the Health Department dispatched thirteen patrol teams to the whooping cough areas in response to the outbreak, this time including areas further south- east of Madang and Morobe in the Northern Province.

The outbreak in Northern Province is being reported from Yoma, on the borders of Nothern and Morobe Provinces, the Saiho Health Centre and Sangara Health Centre in Central Oro, in Oro Kaiva and the Bago Aid post area. Minister for Health and Bougainville Affairs Sir Peter Barter said his department was shipping antibiotics and vaccines to Oro, East Sepik and Madang to treat patients.

Sir Peter said the drugs would arrive in the provinces by today. He said the outbreak was under control with the antibiotics working better than expected. Sir Peter said the antibiotics would immediately cure children and also prevent the long-term coughing, which was common in whooping cough after other the symptoms disappear.

"The outbreak occurs in clusters with no definite patterns or links of spread. There is a worry that the whole country might be affected. If people believe their children might be ill of whooping cough, they should take them to the health centre and aid post. Nurses and community health workers should report quickly to their headquarters," he said.

Whooping cough mostly affects children under two years old but not serious for older children and adults. He said the disease was spread through coughs and generally kicked in about two weeks after exposure to the germs.

June 30, 2006

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