3 Sep 2009

Combination of factors behind dozens of deaths from illness in rural PNG

1:52 pm on 3 September 2009

Health officials in Papua New Guinea's Morobe Province have confirmed that dysentery and common flu, complicated by acute chest infections, are to blame for the dozens of deaths in the Menyamya district over the past 3 weeks.

Tests in Brisbane have eliminated H1N1, or swine flu, as the cause of the deaths.

Dr Likei Theo, the provincial health administrator, says the confirmed death toll in the region is 80 but he fears it will go higher.

"It could be more. That is below. That is below the expected number so we are trying to get the detailed information to establish the number of deaths as of today because we are still behind the situation, because of the communication problem."

Dr Theo says, in addition, more than 3000 are affected by the flu or dysentery.

He also says they are sending in oral re-hydration powders to the coastal villages of Tewai-Siassi, after doctors confirmed 13 additional cases of cholera there yesterday.

There have been seven deaths from cholera in those villages.