Micronesia: Infection concerns mount in Chuuk following tropical storm Chata'an

News and Press Release
Originally published
From Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai'i

By Mark-Alexander Pieper

HAG=C5TÑA, Guam (July 28, 2002 - Pacific Sunday News)---The medical situation in Chuuk is worsening, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doctor.

Infections and contagious diseases are now a big worry for relief organizations helping the island state to recover from Tropical Storm Chata'an. The storm's torrential rains July 2 triggered 30 landslides, killed 47 people, injured dozens and left more than 1,000 homeless.

CDC disaster medicine specialist Dr. Mark Keim said now that initial injuries were handled at the state hospital on the island of Chuuk, problems remain in outlying villages and islands.

Chuuk, one of the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia, consists of 11 volcanic islands in Chuuk Lagoon. It has a population of about 47,000 people and is located about 620 miles southeast of Guam.

Keim yesterday relayed his concerns over the University of Guam's radio network, which connects with the outer islands of Micronesia.

Keim said there are injured who have not been treated because initially their wounds were not severe enough to require hospitalization. With so many people trying to help the critically wounded, minor wounds are becoming infected.

After a disaster, there is often a delayed onset of infectious diseases such as pneumonia; skin, eye and lung infections; and diarrheal or water-borne illnesses, he said.

Keim said most injuries at the Chuuk hospital have been handled, but health officials expect the number of cases of infectious diseases to grow.

"The difficulty is we are still very under-stocked for medication ... as well as there has been no outreach to the islands and villages outside the hospital," he said.

"But with the working island referral system that we have here and all the help Chuuk has been and will hopefully continue to receive, we should have enough to be able to handle it."

Carlotta Leon Guerrero, co-executive director of the Guam-based Ayuda Foundation, said nurses and doctors are still going to Chuuk to provide help.

Ayuda, which has spearheaded the humanitarian efforts in Chuuk, has met with the Guam Pharmacy Association to see if the association will be able to provide medication at cost.

Ayuda is trying to see if the defense department can make space on military cargo transports available to deliver goods.

"Everyone is pulling together, ... it's a real regional effort," she said.

"It could be your island the next time, so you really get that sense that we are one community."