September 13, 2009 / 10:08 AM / 9 years ago

More than 100 die of cholera, diarrhoea, influenza in Papua New Guinea

PORT MORESBY (Reuters) - More than 100 people have died and over 5,000 have been infected in outbreaks of cholera, influenza and diarrhoea in remote parts of Papua New Guinea since last month, health officials said on Sunday.

A Worth Health Organisation (WHO) official told Reuters the outbreaks began in August and have affected remote highland areas, as well as the major regional city of Lae and parts of the northern coast.

Some of these areas are very remote, with little communication or other infrastructure and often only reachable by helicopter. Health officials say the figures could be substantially higher.

More than 4,600 cases of influenza had been confirmed, with 56 deaths, along with 788 cases of diarrhoea with 39 deaths, caused by the bacterium shigella. There have also been 274 cases of cholera, with 21 confirmed deaths, a WHO official in Port Moresby said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Health officials say it is thought to be the first recorded outbreak of cholera in Papua New Guinea and the strain of the water-borne disease has been identified as one widespread in Southeast Asia.

The influenza has been confirmed as seasonal influenza, not the new H1N1 strain which has been declared a global pandemic.

Vanessa Cramond, national medical director with aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said many victims of cholera were finding themselves ostracised and unable even to take public transport to get treatment.

“People don’t know what cholera is and do not know how to respond to it, and how urgent it is to seek care and treatment,” she told Reuters. “There is stigmatisation of people with cholera.”

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