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East New Britain’s Mt. Tavurvur acting up

By Veronica Manuk

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 25, 2008) - People in the ash fall affected areas of East New Britain have been urged to take extra precautions for their own health.

Health authorities in the province sounded the warning after a upsurge in respiratory ailments among the population following heavy ash fall from the active Mt Tavurvur volcano in Rabaul in recent times.

Health centers have reported an increase in the number of people reporting to clinics with respiratory ailments such as flu, pneumonia coughs and diarrhea.

One asthmatic student from a school in Kokopo was reported to have collapsed and died during that time of heavy ash fall.

Vunapope hospital and Butuwin Health Centre confirmed receiving high numbers of patients complaining of respiratory problems related to the volcanic ash fall.

Last week, Kokopo Township and its nearby villages were again hit with heavy ash fall as experienced three weeks ago.

The health extension officer of Butuwin Health Centre Judy Eremas said after the ash fall three weeks ago, the patients with respiratory related complaints increase from between 90 and 100 daily to 150 and 200. She said most of the patients were diagnosed with diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, flu, cough and eye-infection.

A staff member at Vunapope outpatient also made a similar report. She said mostly children were down with unusual diarrhea and many asthmatic patients were attended to and good number of babies were also admitted. However, she was unable to provide proper figures.

Meanwhile Ms. Eremas has warned mothers to keep their babies indoors, boil water before drinking, cover water tanks and not to eat greens or other vegetables from backyard gardens.

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