PNG fails to contain disease threat

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Papua New Guinea’s Health Minister Sasa Zibe says deadly outbreaks of dysentery, flu and cholera in Morobe province should have been contained by health officials.

The diseases have reportedly killed nearly 90 people in the past month and spread to the neighbouring provinces of Eastern Highlands and Gulf.

The PNG government plans to declare a state of emergency in the remote Menyamya and Tewai-Siassi districts of Morobe province.

Health authorities are sending more medical supplies into the affected villages.

Nine people have died of cholera in the first known cases of the disease in more than 50 years.

The head of the World Health Organization in Papua New Guinea says health authorities must step up public awareness campaigns if they are to halt the spread of cholera.

WHO representative Doctor Eigil Sorensen says people must treat cholera symptoms with dehydration salts as soon as possible.

“At the same time, also communicate messages related to safe water, hand washing, hand hygiene, etc. which are critical elements related to control of cholera and these need to be scaled up significantly,” he said.

“I think discussions going on with all the partners, from the government side and civil society and development partners including AusAID, to see how that can be done.

“For example, it has been discussed how can we use some of the communication channels which are used for HIV awareness to get the message out about cholera.”