8 May 2010

PNG authorities declare public health emergency following more cholera deaths

7:08 am on 8 May 2010

Papua New Guinea authorities have declared a public health emergency in response to the prolonged cholera outbreak in the capital Port Moresby after five more people died.

There are fears it could spark a major epidemic.

PNG's Health Minister Sasa Zibe told local newspapers the declaration gave health authorities greater powers to contain the outbreak and control the infection.

He said the government can shut down food and drink stalls and prevent people moving to and from infected areas.

Estimates are that since the first cholera case was reported in August 2009 more than 3000 cases have been confirmed nationwide with estimates of between 60 and 100 related deaths.

Local newspapers reported at least 40 people had been recently diagnosed with the intestinal infection that is mainly transmitted through contaminated water and food and is closely linked to inadequate environmental management.

NGOs, church groups and aid agencies are assisting the PNG government to tackle the nationwide problem.

This is PNG's first cholera outbreak since the 1960s.