Bougainville cholera outbreak under control

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Authorities are encouraging people to take extra care with hygiene, and have introduced a ban on certain foods and home-made ice blocks in an effort to combat the disease.

Alma Mistry spoke to the Chairman of the Cholera Task Force in Bougainville Patrick Koles, and began by asking him if the outbreak was under control.

Presenter: Alma Mistry

Speaker: Patrick Koles, Chairman of the Cholera Task Force in Bougainville

Listen: Windows Media

KOLES: We pretty much lack the manpower underground and at the same time, the cases that are being reported are a lot of them are actually mild cases, some of which are probably are just diarrhoea and the other thing is we still believe that we are actually under control is that since the first reported cases of two deaths, we haven't had deaths at all and we're actually controlling the people that are affected and it's not really actually serious. They are mainly mild cases.

MISTRY: OK, so what are the symptoms and where can people go to get treatment?

KOLES: The symptoms are basically people will develop very severe diarrhoea as well as vomit. There is no headache and there is in fact on the tummy, the stomach is sort of kind of cramped, sort of muscle cramp, that's the sign where people actually have the cholera.

MISTRY: You mentioned that you don't have enough manpower, but what is being done on the ground?

KOLES: Throughout the entire region of Bougainville, we've actually conducted workshops to bring in all the health staff in the rural areas to come for a two day session in the Sarak quarters of Bougainville and they've already gone back to their own districts and what they're doing at the moment now is before the cholera is actually spread to the mainland of Bougainville, what they're doing is they're actually conducting intensive awareness programs now with the mobilisation of the council of elders in each of the COE areas. And where the cholera is actually being contained, we have also despatched the teams and then they are directly in the villages where cholera is being noticed. And at the same time, we're actually getting a lot of assistance from the National Health Department as well as the World Health Organisation.

MISTRY: What are the preventative measures people can take and are they being educated about them?

KOLES: There's a lot of education in the areas that are affected as well as those areas that have not been affected by cholera. What we are doing is, we have a mass production of simplified posters and pamphlets and we actually going door-to-door, door-to-door to the households, so this is the sort of awareness that we're doing and all the teachers have also been orientated so they can actually undertake the awareness in the classrooms.

As far as the council of elders are concerned, we've already talked to them about it and they're actually going around now in each of their COE areas and actually conducting the awareness.

MISTRY: So cholera is proving an ongoing problem in PNG. Now that it's surfaced in Bougainville, is there a risk it will spread into the Solomon Islands?

KOLES: There's a possibility that it can spread into the Solomon Islands, but what we are trying to do now is sort of contain where it has been detected and so far it has not spread to the other areas at all.

MISTRY: Would you be wanting to put some quarantine measures in place?

KOLES: Yes, yes and when we see that it is very, very critical, but at the moment we see that we actually having it controlled. What we're telling them at the moment is that in the areas where cholera has been detected, that they shouldn't move around to other areas for the time being.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation