Biological Hazard in Indonesia on November 25 2015 02:58 PM (UTC).
A large number of children, many below the age of 7, have died of an unexplained disease in Mbuwa district, Nduga regency, Papua, following the start of the rainy season in early November 2015. A medical team consisting of health workers from Nduga, Wamena, and Jayawijaya regencies arrived at the location but have yet to ascertain the cause of the deaths. "As many as 41 children have died, as of today 24 Nov 2015. They present with a slight illness at first but die shortly after these initial signs. The medical team from Nduga Health Office, assisted by the Wamena Health Office may have returned home, but the cause of these deaths remains uncertain," said Mbuwa district chief Erias Gwijangge, during a call to The Jakarta Post on Mon 23 Nov 2015. Erias said Nduga and surrounding areas had experienced drought and were exposed to haze from forest fires. Rain only fell in the past month. When the rain began, a number of livestock, such as pigs and poultry, also died abruptly. "Many of the children died prior to the livestock but there was no report of child fatalities, only in the last 3 days," said Erias. When contacted by the Post, Wamena City community health clinic analysis member Yan Hubi, who joined the trip to Mbuwa district, said his clinic analyzed blood samples of the children to find out if the children had been infected by malaria, but all were negative. Yan returned to Mbuwa on 17 Nov 2015. A doctor and several other medical workers are also continuing to conduct medical treatment in Mbuwa. According to Yan, when a long drought hit the Pegunungan Tengah mountain range region in 1998, including Nduga, a malaria epidemic took place and killed hundreds of people. The symptoms of those who died were similar to the recent deaths. "They initially caught the flu, then diarrhea, and then later, they died. We asked for malaria analysis, conducted a rapid test in the district and later a microscopic test at a lab in Wamena. Of the 70 blood samples, all were negative for malaria," said Yan, who was also involved in blood analysis during the 1998 malaria epidemic in the Pegunungan Tengah region. Indonesia is among 22 countries in the Asia-Pacific region that face a malaria endemic that causes an estimated 32 million infections and more than 47 000 deaths annually.