Sunday, June 27, 2010

15 dead from 'mystery' disease on Manam island



Fifteen people from Manam Island on Madang province have died from a mysterious disease.

However, Sir Peter Barter, who today flew to the island on his helicopter, said tonight the disease could be cholera although this was yet to be confirmed.

The deaths were initially confirmed by local councilor Paul Mabora from Bogia today.

He said two children and 13 adults (five women and eight men) had died since Thursday June 17.

As Mabora spoke to from Bogia Hospital, the sound of weeping relatives could be heard in the background, as the mystery ailment claimed its latest victim.

All victims are from Duguluba village on the volcanic island.

Mabora said all victims, some of whom had fronted up to the Bien health centre on Manam  and Bogia Hospital on the mainland, had complained of having initial symptoms of  a cold sensation which started from the soles of their feet and began to works its way upwards the upper part of the body.

By the time the cold feeling reached the abdomen and stomach of each of the victims, the feeling of hunger then became so intense and by the time the cold reached the heart, he or she collapsed and was pronounced dead.

Of the 15 people who died, 10 died in the village, three at Bien health centre and two at Bogia hospital.

Today a team of specialists from the Madang provincial health office and Modilon Hospital was dispatched by road to Bogia and then by sea over to Manam Island where they will be for the next couple of days.

A small team was today flown by Sir Peter Barter on helicopter to the Island to determine what the disease may be and how to prevent more deaths.

Mabora said he had approached health authorities in Madang last week for assistance but to no avail.

All the villagers living in Dugulaba are now panic-stricken and are making their way to live with relatives in care centres on the mainland.

Duguluba villagers had been living at Daigul care centre on the mainland until March this year when they were forced out by local landowners

Mabora said the first confirmed death from the disease was on Thursday June 17, and up to yesterday, when five people died, the total number of people who died was 15.

“Some people are in hospital at Bogia while some are at Bien health centre on Manam Island,” he said.

“We do not know what kind of disease it is.

“If it is cholera, you have diarrhoea, but with this disease, you have no diarrhoea.

“Your legs go numb and it spreads up to the heart and you die.

“The victims felt cold in their legs and the feeling spread throughout the body.

“They then say they feel hungry and then drop dead.”

Mabora said the first victim on June 17 was a young father of three children named Raphael Jawa, who started complaining of the cold sensation and later died in his own house.

“Right now, all my people are fleeing from the island and are coming to Potsdam care centre on the mainland,” he said.

“They are saying that they want me to get them to Mangem care centre, which is towards Madang.

“I’ve talked with the Bogia district administrator about this but he said he had no funds.

“I’ve also talked with Pais Ikumar, the provincial director for disaster, but he said he had no funds.

“I do not know where my people will stay or get food to eat.

“This is a life-and-death situation.”

Mabora said Duguluba villagers lived a very hard life on Manam.

“We don’t have proper water supply on Manam,” he said.

“We get water from underground wells, but there is volcanic dust in the wells, so who knows?

“On the island, we can’t grow vegetables and we can’t get meat,

“The government only gives us rice and noodles.”

Mabora appealed to the people of Papua New Guinea as well as overseas donors to assist the Duguluba villagers.

“I am appealing to the people of PNG to help move our people to the mainland,” he said.

“I am also appealing for help from overseas donors.”


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