31 Aug 2009

WHO says PNG health system limited to cope with cholera outbreak

8:00 pm on 31 August 2009

The World Health Organisation says Papua New Guinea's health system has only a limited capacity to cope with an outbreak of cholera, that's killed at least five people.

A WHO medical team has just returned from coastal villages in Morobe Province where more than 80 people have contracted the waterborne disease.

It comes as health authorities are dealing with a separate outbreak of dysentry and influenza that's killed at least 48 people.

The WHO's representative in PNG, Dr Eigil Sorenson says the outbreak is unusual because cholera has not occurred in the country in more than 40 years.

He says the WHO is providing technical support, but managing the diseases will be an issue because of the weakness in the country's health care system

"Health services in general in Papua New Guinea are not very strong, and particularly in rural areas. A cholera outbreak is a major concern, their capacity to deal with this, when it comes to communicable disease control I think there is limited capacity within the country."

Dr Sorenson says the difficult terrain in PNG makes it more challenging and costly to treat people.