13 Nov 2010

Australia restricts travel over PNG cholera outbreak

1:58 pm on 13 November 2010

Travel between Australia's Torres Strait Islands and neighbouring Papua New Guinea has been restricted in an effort to contain a deadly cholera outbreak.

Queensland health officials are already monitoring cholera's spread in Daru, one of the closest PNG towns to Australia, where the death toll has reportedly passed 20.

After speaking with PNG authorities, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Friday announced that Australia had restricted all cross-border travel under the Torres Strait Treaty free-movement provisions.

A department spokesman says the restriction, which prevents traditional visits to Australia by indigenous inhabitants, will remain in place until further notice but will be subject to ongoing review.

The department said the border between Australia and PNG otherwise remained open, and travellers would need a valid passport and visa to cross.

Cholera is transmitted by ingesting water contaminated by bacteria from an infected person or food contaminated by dirty water, soiled hands or flies.

The disease usually only makes people mildly sick, however up to 10% of patients develop a severe illness.