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Health officials say shellfish exposed to ballast from ships

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, September 8, 2009) – Local health authorities in Tewai/Siassi district in Morobe Province have suspected that cholera may occur in persons who have eaten seafood, particularly shellfish.

District health admini-strator Tureng Tamba said cholera had never reached Papua New Guinea but the risk to PNG was mainly from border crossers from the Indonesian border area.

He said however, cholera may occur in persons who have eaten seafood, particularly shellfish, from a port where foreign vessels have discharged waste or ballast.

"In our situation, the villages affected were people living along the coast where they mainly rely on fishing," he said.

He said that the villagers may have contracted cholera after eating shellfish that may have fed on human waste discharged from a passing foreign vessel from an infected person.

He said the disease may have spread from person to person through contaminated hands.

"This is what we think, however we have to confirm with an epidermis how the disease was contracted," he said.

Meanwhile after a personal visit to the affected villages, Morobe provincial administrator Kemas Tomala has instructed for a supply of additional manpower and medicine to the villages.

Mr. Tomala visited the villages of Nambariva and Lambatina where cholera first started.

Local and provincial medical officers were working together with representatives from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to prevent the disease from spreading.

Tomala also commended the effort put in by local health workers and WHO to contain the disease from spreading to neighbouring villages.

The officers from WHO were first to be on the ground last week together with local health officers treating diagnosed adults.

Provincial health inspector Joe Wartovo was also there carrying out an awareness campaign on water supply, sanitation and personal hygiene.

Mr. Wartovo told the people in the villages to maintain good water supply, sanitation and personal hygiene.

He said he had observed that personal hygiene was lacking among the people in the villages and encouraged them to improve in this area.

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