Cholera scare rocks Unitech

National, Normal

The National

STUDENTS at the University of Technology in Lae called a forum last Friday morning to suspend classes amid rumours that four students had been infected with cholera.
Investigations in the lodges, however, found the students were suffering from other illnesses.
Staff at the university clinic also said no one had reported to the clinic with symptoms of cholera.
The university clinic has opened an isolation bay where any suspected cases will be checked before referrals are made to the Angau quarantine centre for treatment.
SRC president O’Brien Hoga along with other student representatives and medical staff visited the lodgings of the suspected cases.
They confirmed the four students were ill but did not show any signs of dysentery or diarrhoea.
The situation on campus, however, was tense throughout the weekend. Many students feared entering the lodging areas of the sick and refused to enter and use the ablution blocks. Some feared going into the library, computer labs and mess halls.
Female SRC president Elizabeth Lolo said a medical team from the World Health Organisation would visit the campus today to conduct an assessment of the area and address the students.
The students called for a suspension of classes last Friday morning arguing that an outbreak could easily occur due to the common facilities shared among the students.
Unitech’s administration told the students that the decision to suspend classes could not be made overnight and directed the students to return to classes today.
They were told that the decision to close down any university was a long process and the University Council was the only authority that had the power to do so.
An urgent meeting of the heads of departments was held last Friday afternoon, the first stage of the process.
Following that will be a meeting of the academic board, who will then report to the council. The council then makes the final decision.
Senior lecturer and deputy chairman of the Angau Memorial Hospital board, Dr Graham Atkins, also addressed the students at the forum.
He told the students that fear and panic were “two of the biggest diseases that could fail the body’s immune system”.
He said that everyone was susceptible to cholera and advised students not to “rock the boat”.
Dr Atkins also said in both meetings last Friday that closing down the campus was an irrational move.
He stressed that if one student had cholera, it would be best for that person to stay on campus, and in Lae where treatment was available by specialists who are trained to treat cholera.
“Going home could allow for the infection to spread if one was already affected,” he warned.
As a precautionary measure, security has been tightened with restrictions on entering the campus.
Students and staff are required to present their ID cards once they return from outside the campus.
Students have also been advised to practice safe hygiene.