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World Health Organization monitoring situation in Morobe

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, August 31, 2009) – Health and HIV Minister Sasa Zibe has announced an outbreak of the potentially deadly disease cholera in the Wasu area of Finschhafen District in Morobe Province.

His confirmation comes after an extensive investigation carried out by the provincial and national surveillance team with World Health Organisation experts after an outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea last month and this month.

He said it was the first known report of cholera in the country. Mr. Zibe said this was a major health concern and he had directed the Department of Health to take appropriate actions to contain the situation so it would not spread to other communities.

"As this is the first reported case, the Government will now be reporting this to the World Health Organisation as part of the requirement under the international health regulation (2005)," Zibe said.

Cholera is a diarrhoeal disease caused by infection of the intestine with bacteria or germ. Both children and adults can be infected. Cholera is usually transmitted through faecal contamination of water and or food.

Zibe said new outbreaks could occur in any parts of the communities where water supply, sanitation, food safety and hygiene were inadequate.

"Anyone with symptoms of acute watery diarrhoea and dehydration in villages in the affected areas, particularly Wasu LLG, must report to health facilities immediately," Zibe said.

"Those who do have this infection must start drinking a lot of fluid like coconut juice or any safe water at home and during travel to the health care facility."

He emphasised the importance and encouraged individuals and families to take necessary precaution in order to minimise the spread by washing hands before cooking, before eating and washing hands after using the toilet, cook food well and drink water from safe water supply or boiled drinking water.

Zibe instructed the Department of Health to closely monitor the situation and put in place emergency measures to contain the outbreak. He also called on other Government agencies including the National Disaster and Emergency Services to assist wherever possible. "If allowed to spread, the disease will add further burden to our fragile health system," he said.

"We must focus and keep it where it is and not allow it to spread."

Zibe also called on provincial authorities to contain the vigilance and urging any one experiencing profuse watery diarrhoea to go to the hospitals immediately.

He further called on all health workers to diagnose and treat particular diarrhoea diseases immediately

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