3 Sep 2009

Common flu to blame for deaths of more than 80 in PNG

7:41 am on 3 September 2009

The Papua New Guinea Health minister, Sasa Zibe, says the common flu and not the H1N1 virus is to blame for many deaths in the past few weeks.

The Morobe province has been hit by a series of illnesses, with several thousand people affected with influenza and dysentery in rural villages in the Menyamya district.

Official figures say the death toll there is at least eighty but local reports have put the figure at more than double that.

But Mr Zibe says tests done in Brisbane have ruled out the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, in Menyamya.

"We have a common flu outbreak in Menyamya, but its gone beyond the common flu. We have many people dying over there because of dehydration, and also because its flu related."

There have also been seven deaths from cholera in several coastal villages in the province.