I have good reason to suspect that Cholera has crossed over into the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Over the past month there have been close to 200 reported deaths in the remote Menyamya District of the Morobe Province from cholera-dysentery-influenza type symptoms. Menyamya (Morobe) and Obura-Womenara (Eastern Highlands) Districts share a common border and see a constant flow of people moving between these two remote areas of Papua New Guinea.
A good friend of ours – “Paisel” – hails in from the Pinji village located roughly half way between Okapa and Marawaka Stations in the Eastern Highlands. Marawaka lies almost adjacent to Menyamya, the location where the recent deaths have been reported. “Paisel” stayed with us for a few days this week and Thursday evening after dinner, he shared the story about how one of his clansmen died from what appeared to be cholera type symptoms the previous Sunday. From one day to the next his kin developed severe diahorhea and vomiting, then just dropped dead.
Considering the recent and sudden outbreak of Cholera and Influenza in the Morobe Province and the constant flow of rural people between the Morobe and Eastern Highlands borders – I took “Paisel’s” story seriously. First thing the next morning I contacted the Eastern Highland Provincial Health Services and made an appointment to see the Provincial Health Advisor – with “Paisel” – first thing Friday morning.
The meeting did eventuate and “Paisel’s” story (as recounted by him) was taken very seriously by the local Health Officials. Apparently that morning they had received a phone call from Moresby wanting an update on the outbreak situation in the Eastern Highlands as they had reasons to suspect that Cholera had already crossed over from Morobe into the Eastern Highlands. “Paisel” has since returned to his village and we will need to wait and see what action the local Health Authorities will take.
As reported recently by the Post Courier a State of Emergency has now been declared in the Morobe Province:
National Health Minister Sasa Zibe has heeded the call from Morobe Governor Luther Wenge to declare a State of Emergency in the influenza and dysentery
struck Menyamya district of Morobe Province.
Minister Zibe told the Post-Courier last night that the number of deaths reported so far was too much and was totally unacceptable, and that he did not want
any more people dying from the outbreak. Mr Zibe said it was now a national issue and he had had an emergency meeting with his departmental heads and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force yesterday in Port Moresby, and that they would be providing all the assistance necessary to combat the outbreak in Menyamya district.
And for those travelling or thinking of travelling to Papua New Guinea here’s the latest from the Australian Government’s Travel Advisory:
There is a current outbreak of cholera in the city of Lae (Morobe Province), with recent outbreaks also occurring in isolated island communities in Siassi district in the north eastern part of Morobe province. Deaths have been reported. Cholera is transmitted through water and food contaminated with the cholera organism and spreads as a result of poor hygiene. In some instances the original source of the contamination can be from the environment (e.g. shellfish). Further advice on cholera can be found on the World Health Organization website.
There is an outbreak of dysentery and seasonal influenza in the remote Menyamya district of Morobe province. Deaths have been reported.
Anyone visiting the affected areas should exercise strict hygiene precautions including careful and frequent hand washing. We advise you to drink water only from known safe sources eg bottle, chlorinated or boiled water, to avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food and to maintain strict hygiene standards while travelling in Papua New Guinea.
Finally, here’s a couple of relevant information pamphlets / booklets which I have uploaded and made available via the Resources section:
Worth noting (and questioning perhaps) is why WHO have not reported any news on their web page in relation to this outbreak in Papua New Guinea. The page dedicated to reporting Disease Outbreaks in this country is empty!