Tuesday, June 29, 2010
15 die in Manam
Dr Sibek Bieb (seated left) talking to villagers on Manam Island on Sunday. Bieb is among a small team of health specialists from Madang dispatched to the volcanicn island.
By Malum Nalu, The National
FIFTEEN people from Manam Island in Madang have died from a mysterious disease.
However, Sir Peter Barter, who yesterday flew to the island on his helicopter, said last night the disease could be cholera although this was yet to be confirmed.
The deaths were initially confirmed by local councillor Paul Mabora from Bogia yesterday.
He said two children and 13 adults (five women and eight men) had died since June 17.
As Mabora spoke on the phone to The National from Bogia Hospital, the sound of weeping relatives could be heard in the background, as the mystery ailment claimed its latest victim. All victims were from Duguluba village on the volcanic island. Mabora said all victims, some of whom had fronted up at 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 work its way upwards to 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, the victim collapsed and was pronounced dead.
Of the 15 fatalities, 10 died in the village, three at Bien health centre and two at Bogia hospital.
Yesterday, 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 two days.
Another small team was yesterday flown by Sir Peter on helicopter to the island to determine what the disease might be and how to prevent more deaths.
All the villagers living in Dugulaba were panic-stricken and were making their way to live with relatives in care centres on the mainland.
Dugulaba villagers had been living at Daigul care centre on the mainland until March this year when they were forced out by local landowners.
“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.”
Life for islanders on Manam is very hard with no water supply, and people drink water from wells which are contaminated with volcanic dust.