Kiribati diarrhoea outbreak under control: Health Authorities

Health authorities on the island of Tarawa in Kiribati will continue to monitor a diarrhoea outbreak that has killed six children, but say it is largely under control.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services says it has identified 500 cases of diarrhoea and 93 per cent are children under the age of five.

Dr Teatao Tiira, the Director for Public Health Services told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program that the number of cases have been declining since Friday.

"Now we are monitoring the numbers and we will declare the outbreak over once the numbers are under 10 per day," he said.

Dr Tiira says the six children who died from the outbreak were malnourished.

"It's very sad but most of the malnourished cases are the ones that are easily affected when there is an outbreak."

"Malnutrition is a common problem in Kiribati... diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition - those are the three killers in the community," he said.

The latest outbreak may be connected to the recent gathering for Kiribati's independence, earlier this month.

Dr Tiira says the likely cause of the outbreak is rotavirus and the Ministry of Health has sent samples to Fiji to confirm.

"We are very much relieved that it was not cholera... once (cholera) reaches the island it would be devastating," he said.

Diarrhoea is often an issue after large community events where people share food in often overcrowded areas, Dr Tiira said.

The Ministry of health is expecting another outbreak after Christmas and New Years celebrations.

Kiribati now has a daily reporting system which has increased publicity of health data significantly.

The island of North Tarawa was declared a public defecation free zone by the United Nations in May, meaning locals have access to increased indoor sanitation.

Tarawa hopes it can follow suit.

"Hopefully by the end of 2015 we will have defecation free so that will (help) to reduce the diarrhoea outbreaks... and will help to reduce the death rates for (children) under the age of five years," Dr Tiira said.

"What we are doing now is trying to identify gaps within our services and we are involving NGOs, communities, churches and everyone to work on this.

ABC News

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