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Earlier contained to Morobe, the disease has spread

By Nellie Setepano and Simon Eroro PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 3, 2010) – In Papua New Guinea, the ugly disease cholera has surfaced in the nation’s capital, leaving three confirmed dead and 11 more sick with the illness.

All three who died last week were men, two from Elevala village in Hanuabada and one from Lealea village in Central Province.

The 11 were diagnosed and treated at the Gerehu clinic and discharged. An isolated part of Gerehu clinic has been allocated as stand by for cholera cases with medical staff from St. John and Doctors without Borders working with the National Capital District (NCD) to contain the infection.

Schools in the vicinity of Hanuabada, including Badihagwa Secondary, Hagara and St Michael’s primary schools will be closed for a few days in an attempt to contain the infection.

In a press conference yesterday NCD Governor Powes Parkop said the NCD Cholera Task Force which was set up last year was monitoring the situation closely and referred to it as a "localized situation’’, meaning that those affected by the disease were contained and the situation was under control but he called on the public to take precautions. The task force is in Hanuabada and Lealea villages and the infected households are being confined and monitored.

Mr. Parkop has called on people who have come in contact with those reported infected people to report to the clinic for tests.

"Our efforts to deal with this situation in NCD can succeed with the public taking precautionary measures," the Governor said.

He called on people who were suffering diarrhea or stomach pain to report to the clinic to be tested and treated.

The Governor also called on the people to stop buying water or drinks sold on the streets or at market places and even food sold openly in public. He has also advised people not to use public areas or bushes to dispose of their waste.

He assured residents not to panic but strictly adhere to the five ’F’ rules more than ever. Food must be properly cooked before consumption, wash fingers after use of toilets and before eating, keep flies away from food, or have it covered, boil water before consumption.

The environmental issue and sanitation problems surrounding Hanuabada and other NCD villages in nations capital is of great concern, which the Governor said can give great rise to cholera but Mr. Parkop said there is no immediate solution to it but a short term solution.

He called on these villages to dispose of their waste in the right place and stressed the importance of observing normal sanitation rules.

NCD Health Adviser Timothy Pyakalyia who was also at the press conference confirmed the 11 reported cases.

He also urged children to keep away from washing in the salt water as it was contaminated. He assured the public that there should not be any unnecessary panic.

Also present at the conference were medical response coordinator Dr. Niko Wuatai, Douglas Kelson of St John and Robin Yanapa of the NCD task force.

Chairman of the Motu Koita Assembly Miria Ikupu while confirming the case told this paper yesterday that the cases had been detected in Elevala village.

Mr. Ikupu said these were the first cholera cases recorded in the Motu Koitabu villages and all efforts were being made to curtail any further spread of cholera in this highly populated village.

Mr. Ikupu said the cholera cases in Elevala village went undetected until recently and stringent measures had been imposed in the entire Hanuabada village on the behavior and movement of people.

"It is unfortunate but what’s important is to include all other Motu Koita villages with similar strategies to make sure that the cholera disease does not spread across the village," Mr. Ikupu said.

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