Mon, 12 May 2003

Malaria outbreak kills 12 in Riau

The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru, Riau

A malaria outbreak has hit Mandah district in the Riau regency of Indragiri Hilir over the past two weeks, claiming at least 12 lives.

A Mandah resident, Afriati, told Antara on Saturday that people in the subdistrict were living in fear as the disease, which is transmitted by certain mosquitoes, had spread quickly.

She said her father was now in the hospital with the illness, which has also affected many of her neighbors.

"We are afraid of the disease as it has killed some of my neighbors," Afriati, a mother of three children, said.

Local health officials said the malaria outbreak initially affected Telaga Besar subdistrict, before it spread to neighboring subdistricts of Batang Sari and Pancur.

The three subdistricts are isolated due to poor transportation infrastructure, hampering medical aid deliveries from the local health office.

Head of the health agency, Masykur Abdullah, said 47 people were now being treated at a community health center in Belaras subdistrict.

He said his staff was informed about the outbreak by residents of the areas affected. The people had suspected that the outbreak was caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

"The people reported a SARS case in their village and nobody came to help the person for fear of being infected with the deadly disease," Masykur said.

A health official finally came to the village, using a face mask. It was the official who found that malaria had hit the area," he said.

The health agency has conveyed 300 blankets and food supplements to residents in the three subdistricts to prevent the malaria outbreak from affecting more people.

Malaria has been rampant in many parts of the country. Villages in Minahasa, Bolaang Mongondow and Sangihe Talaud regencies recorded over 450,000 malaria cases last year, while in Menoreh highlands, the Central Java area prone to malaria the most, the disease affected almost 15,000 people last year.

Malaria can be fatal if treatment comes too late.