Health: No anthrax outbreak in Madang

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By GYNNIE KERO and DOROTHY MARK
THE Health Department has assured the people that there is no anthrax outbreak in Madang – following the cancellation of a visit there by 1500 tourists on a cruise ship on Wednesday.
Health Secretary Pasco Kase said he was disappointed with the social media report which triggered the false health scare, prompting the captain of the Pacific Aria to turn the cruise ship around after it had arrived around 6am.
Kase said he wondered why someone had to post “such nonsense” causing panic among residents, visitors and tourists in Madang.
“My office confirms that no human being in Madang has caught the anthrax bacteria. We have to be careful with lives of the people when posting about diseases (outbreaks),” Kase said.
“(Only) the Health Department has the authority to declare outbreaks in the country – not individuals pressing panic button. We deal with sensitive cases seriously as it involves people’s lives.”
Kase said anthrax affected only pigs – not people.
Melanesian Tourist Services managing director Sir Peter Barter said more than K100,000 would be paid to services hired on Wednesday to provide entertainment for the 1500 tourists.
Sir Peter said 50 buses were waiting to transport the tourists around town.
“There were singsing groups engaged to put up a big festival here and they were all prepared for it,” he said.
Sir Peter said the entertainment groups and service providers would have to be paid.
“The cruise agent from Australia was here (in Madang) and saw a post on Facebook about the anthrax and contacted the captain,” he said.
The Pacific Aria arrived at Godawan Bay around 6am and was waiting to berth at 7am.
Sir Peter said he called the captain and advised him that the anthrax would not affect human beings. But the captain advised Sir Peter that he had been instructed to cancel the Madang trip by the cruise ship base in Australia. Sir Peter even contacted the Australia High Commission in Port Moresby to try and stop the ship from leaving.

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