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PNG cholera outbreak reaches Torres Strait

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A cholera outbreak in Papua New Guinea has killed 15 children and hospitalised 60 locals on a PNG island in the Torres Strait.

A cholera outbreak in Papua New Guinea has killed 15 children and hospitalised 60 locals on a PNG island in the Torres Strait.

PNG cholera outbreak reaches Torres Strait
PNG cholera outbreak reaches Torres Strait

The outbreak’s proximity to Australia and the regular flow of PNG people through the Torres Strait, on customary and traditional grounds, is being watched by Australia, authorities said.

“AusAID is closely monitoring the situation in Daru,” a spokesman said.
AusAID will meet with World Health Organisation officials and the national government to discuss the findings and, if necessary, may consider a joint mission to Daru”.

PNG’s National newspaper reported on Tuesday that hundreds of locals on Daru island, in Western Province on the PNG southwest coast, opposite Cape York, have been treated over the past three weeks, with 15 children dying from cholera.

Dr Amos Lano told The National newspaper the children died at both the hospital and their homes from cholera-related symptoms of watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain and vomiting.

“Patients started feeling sick after drinking well water which is now being checked to determined if it is contaminated,” he said.

Daru, one of the closest PNG towns to Australia, is said to be over-populated with 20,000 people relying on water from the mainland.

Warren Dutton, a former PNG minister and businessman, told AAP that concerned residents in Western Province’s administration centre Kiunga, north of Daru, met on Monday night to address ways to prevent the further spread of the disease.

“Up until now there has been no notification, from any other of the health or other authorities responsible for the health and safety of the people of the Western Province.

“Hand washing and sanitation has become crucial and we are urging all flights, especially from Daru into Kiunga, are properly dealt with when passengers get off the plane,” he said.

Kiunga is the Fly River town servicing the giant Ok Tedi mine.

PNG’s first cholera outbreak since the 1960s was recorded by the World Health Organisation in September last year.

When cholera was first detected the Australian government provided emergency medical supplies and equipment to PNG’s affected communities.

More than 250,000 water purification tablets, protective clothing, and more than 37,000 clean containers for water storage and transport were issued.

But a poor response and lack of funding by the PNG government has been blamed for cholera spreading across the country, killing more than a hundred people in total.