29 Aug 2009

41 dead, hundreds hit by illness outbreak in PNG's Morobe Province

9:26 am on 29 August 2009

Outbreaks of dysentry and influenza in the Menyamya district of Papua New Guinea's Morobe Province have claimed the lives of forty one people in the past three weeks.

The provincial health advisor for Morobe, Dr Theo Likei, confirmed more than 800 people have become unwell and 21 have died from influenza and a further twenty are dead due to dysentry.

He says the root cause of the outbreak is not yet known and more villagers may die.

The centre of the outbreak is in one village in Menyamya district but people in nine other villages have also become unwell.

"The location of the problem seems to be centred around one particular village, that's Akwanda village. There are nine other villages being involved, but with less numbers than Akwanda. Akwanda definitely had about ninety nine per cent of the total. Out of 830, 700 plus are from Akwanda. Out of 41 deaths, forty deaths are from Akwanda alone."

Twenty seven people have been transported out of the area for further treatment.

A medical team from Port Moresby including staff from the World Health Organisation and supplies have been dispatched.

The situation is being continuously monitored but communication with the villages is difficult due to their remote locations.

Dr Likei says medical staff are working around the clock to contain the illness outbreak and if there is any further spread, more help from outside the district will be needed.