MSF provides cholera treatment in Papua New Guinea

The international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF) is currently responding to the cholera outbreak affecting Papua New Guinea.

In the country’s first outbreak in fifty years, MSF is assisting the Ministry of Health in treating patients in a specially constructed Cholera Treatment Centre at the Angau Memorial General Hospital in Lae, the second-largest port city of Papua New Guinea. Since the beginning of the outbreak in early September, a dedicated team of medical emergency specialists has treated 90 patients.

“MSF is providing free treatment for cholera patients at Angau Hospital,” says Steven COOPER, Emergency Coordinator for MSF. “We strongly encourage people with suspected symptoms of cholera to seek free treatment either by visiting one of the many sites in the region where oral rehydration solution (ORS) is distributed or if symptoms are severe, to come to the MSF treatment centre at the hospital for immediate care, which is free of charge.”

 “It’s important that people do not panic,” says Steven. “Although contagious, cholera is preventable and is treated easily. Many measures have been put in place to inform people about the impact of the disease and there are several sites set up throughout the region where people can access care.”

Symptoms of cholera include profuse vomiting and diarrhoea resulting in severe dehydration. It is a highly contagious disease but can be prevented by following strict hygiene practices, such as washing hands, and properly cooking food, and using and drinking clean water. Treatment is simple: many patients are treated using ORS, a treatment which has the correct amount of electrolytes to rehydrate a patient. More severe cases are treated using intravenous drips. Once treated, patients can start feeling better within 24 hours.

MSF will continue to provide free treatment for cholera patients until the epidemic is contained.

MSF has been working in Papua New Guinea since 2007. In addition to the current emergency response, teams provide free medical and psychological care for victims of sexual and domestic violence in Lae at the Angau Hospital. There is also a team in Tari, providing emergency medical and surgical care for victims of violence at the Tari Hospital.