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HEALTH: Pohnpei declares emergency over cholera


POHNPEI (Pacnews) - A state of emergency has been declared in the state of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) because of a major cholera outbreak, Pacnews reports.

The declaration was made by Pohnpei Governor, Johnny David.

The cholera outbreak reportedly started in late April and people affected with the water-borne disease began arriving at the local hospital to seek treatment in early April.

As of yesterday afternoon, 36 people had been admitted to the Pohnpei State Hospital for cholera and authorities are expecting to admit several more people over the next few days. There are just over 35,000 people living in the state.

A statement from the FSM President's Office said primary and high schools in the state had been closed indefinitely. However, the two colleges have been allowed to remain open.

"Although the Department of Public Health in Guam has confirmed cholera exists in Pohnpei after testing and confirming two cases this week, traveling in and out of Pohnpei has not been restricted," the President's Office said.

"Four specimens were sent to Guam for confirmation of cholera after many people had gone to the hospital with complaints of severe diarrhoea and abdominal pain, main symptoms of the disease. As of Tuesday (May 09) this week, more than 30 patients had gone to the hospital with the same symptoms," said Dr Eliuel Pretrick, the Secretary for Health, Education and Social Affairs.

"Cholera is very infectious and easy to transmit. It is transmitted by 'cholera vibriole' to the people through poor personal health hygiene such as contaminated water, food, hands, and flies," he said. Personal hygiene is very important, he added.

Staff from the Public Health Department have begun visiting local communities to help educate people about the disease, including talks on its prevention and cure.

"Adults suffer more from this disease and I recommend them to take plenty of fluid, preferably boiled water, to replace the fluid lost through diarrhoea because loss of fluid in the body can be fatal." He reminds everyone to exercise personal health hygiene.

Dr. Pretrick said he does not know how the latest outbreak started in Pohnpei. "We did have only one case of cholera in 1983. Six years ago there was a cholera outbreak in Chuuk on two occasions. Since then, there have not been any reports of cholera in Chuuk."

There have been no other reports of cholera cases in the other states in this latest outbreak.

Meanwhile, the Micronesian Red Cross Society has also begun training volunteers to assist Pohnpei State in educating communities on how to prevent the spread of cholera.

Red Cross Emergency and Disaster Relief Committee co-chair Amato Elymore, said all water systems in Pohnpei, except the 24-hour water in Kolonia Town, and in Palikir, must be considered unsafe.

"It was also stated in the meeting that reef fish and clams at the mouth of contaminated water systems could become contaminated also." He also warned that sharing soda cans, cigarettes and water cups could spread the disease. ...PNS


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