8 Sep 2009

PNG fears cholera spread beyond Morobe

3:09 pm on 8 September 2009

The Papua New Guinea government is very concerned that an outbreak of cholera in Morobe could spread around the country and it's looking at declaring a state of emergency to try and contain it.

The secretary for health, Dr Clement Malau, is today leading a team, that includes the government's chief secretary and donor agencies, to make an assessment of the Morobe districts where cholera and a separate shigella bacteria outbreak have hit over the past three weeks.

The official death toll from both diseases is put at just over 100 but the Governor of Morobe, Luther Wenge, says information he's received from villagers indicates over four hundred have died.

Dr Malau says it's the first time cholera has been in the country and he's particularly concerned that it doesn't spread.

"The fact that even in Port Moresby, the way we practise general hygiene in our market systems here is really really of concern. Along the Highlands Highway, the way people buy and sell food is also a very big concern. We already have cholera in the country and if it spreads to those areas we are very concerned that it might be a major national concern."