People are afraid to drink water from the tap - Pillay
4 to 5 new diarrheal illness cases per day opposed to 0 to 2 prior to outbreak- Health Ministry

People are afraid to drink water from the tap - Pillay

4 to 5 new diarrheal illness cases per day opposed to 0 to 2 prior to outbreak- Health Ministry

By Navitalai Naivalurua
Wednesday 13/09/2023

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Affairs member and FijiFirst MP Viam Pillay is thankful to the Minister for Health Dr Atonio Lalabalavu and the Minister for Infrastructure Ro Filipe Tuisawau for taking action in regard to the diarrhoeal disease outbreak in Balevuto settlement and nearby communities, however, he says people are afraid to drink water from the tap and urges the two Ministers to visit the area.

While contributing to the motion that Parliament debate the Review of the Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018 Annual report, Pillay says he has been advised that water tanks have been flushed to the five schools close to the area and the Water Authority of Fiji has moved in to fill water from the Waiwai Catchment.

He says WAF has also positioned a few water tanks in a few communities, but there is also a lot of work required in other communities.

Pillay says some schools are also providing bottled water or boiling the water to assist students.

Meanwhile, investigation continues in the increase in cases of diarrhoeal disease reported in the Balevuto area as 72 cases of diarrhoea illness presenting with loose bowel motions, with or without blood in stool, with fever, abdominal pain or vomiting were reported in the area, including in Nukuloa, Balevuto, Nacaci, Toge, Vatusui, Tabataba, Naruku, Talaiya, and Moto from 20th August to yesterday.

In a statement, the Health Ministry says currently they are seeing 4 to 5 new cases per day as opposed to 0 to 2 cases per day prior to this outbreak.

They say the Ba team are working on ensuring there is community wide close follow up of patients with chronic underlying disease, and the elderly, to ensure ongoing wellbeing, as these are the groups of people more at risk of falling ill and also developing severe disease during this outbreak.

It says as of yesterday, seven out of the 18 people admitted to the hospital have been discharged.

Furthermore, all the cases admitted have responded well to antibiotics and other support treatment provided. 

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The Ministry says one suspected case has tested positive for Shigella sonnei, a type of bacteria that is spread through the faeces of infected persons, and that is known to cause outbreaks of acute diarrhoeal illness.

They say further specialized testing of patient samples will be done at a reference laboratory in Melbourne.

The Ministry further says they have four teams on the ground actively monitoring the situation, and contingency plans are in place to expedite or escalate their response if necessary.

The Ministry adds that chemical analysis of tap water from the water supply scheme providing tap water to over 6,000 residents conducted by Koronivia Research Station shows all chemicals are within the normal range for drinking water standards (USAEPA Drinking Water Standards, 2018; WHO Drinking Water Standards 2019 Guidelines).

In addition to the already conducted analysis of the tap water, the Ministry says the Ba Medical team are collecting samples from alternative sources of water i.e., tanks and borehole for analysis at the Fiji CDC.

They say the teams are also doing house visits, supplying WASH kits, purification tablets and conducting public health awareness.

They says the Ministry continues to work in close collaboration with partners including the Water Authority of Fiji, the Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management, and Ministry of Education and wishes to assure the Nacaci residents that they are committed to addressing this issue promptly and transparently to ensure the health and well-being of our communities.

They are imploring all residents of Nacaci Settlement, as well as those in Balevuto and nearby areas, to prioritize good hygiene practices, including boiling all drinking water and proper handwashing with soap and water before and after meals, as well as after visiting the toilet.

The Ministry is urging the public to promptly seek medical attention at their nearest health facility if they experience loose and watery stools, along with any of the following symptoms:

– Nausea (feeling sick)

– Vomiting

– Fever

– Headaches

– Bloating and Flatulence (excess gas)

– Abdominal pain

– Loss of appetite

The Ministry says the Government remains committed to ensuring the safety and health of Fijian communities, and they will continue to provide updates as the situation evolves.

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