A UN disaster official expressed fears of a typhoid and cholera outbreak in Fiji following a cyclone last week that killed three people and destroyed more than 370 homes.
Hamish Weatherly, the Pacific emergency coordinator for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said there was a risk of the potentially deadly waterborne disease typhoid spreading rapidly after the major storm.
There had already been a typhoid outbreak before the category four Cyclone Tomas hit the north and east of Fiji on Monday and Tuesday last week with winds averaging 175 kilometres (110 miles) an hour.
“UNICEF Pacific office is responding to the emergency with specific attention to water, sanitation and hygiene, given that cases of typhoid and cholera are likely to rise in the coming days,” Weatherly said.
Fiji’s health authorities reported three cases of diarrhoea with blood, a possible sign of typhoid, on a northern island.
The Ministry of Health warned people to boil water or use purification tablets before drinking it.
National Disaster Management Office operations officer Anthony Blake said according to early assessments, 376 homes had been destroyed in the cyclone and another 423 were damaged.
Fiji’s deputy secretary for public health, Joe Koroivueta, told AAP their number one health concern was the lack of safe drinking water.
“At the moment some of the places don’t have access to water and those that do have water we need to treat to make it safe,” Dr Koroivueta said from his office in Suva.
Radio New Zealand reported an estimated 30,000 people are now at risk of catching typhoid.
“The whole northern division and the eastern division … they are people at risk,” Dr Koroivueta said.
“Also in certain areas of the western division too.
“We have teams doing assessment now … the issue right now is basically to meet the emergency needs.
“The road towards maintaining a safe water supply, that’s a different discussion.”