Cholera in the Gilbert Islands

I. Epidemiological Features

T. KuberskiSouth Pacific Commission, Noumea Cedex B.P. D5, Ministry of Health, Noumea, New Caledonia

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T. FloodSouth Pacific Commission, Noumea Cedex B.P. D5, Ministry of Health, Noumea, New Caledonia

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T. TeraSouth Pacific Commission, Noumea Cedex B.P. D5, Ministry of Health, Noumea, New Caledonia

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The New Zealand Cholera Relief TeamSouth Pacific Commission, Noumea Cedex B.P. D5, Ministry of Health, Noumea, New Caledonia

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An explosive epidemic of cholera due to Vibrio cholerae, biotype El Tor, serotype Inaba, was centered on the coral atoll of Tarawa, Gilbert Islands. This outbreak was a unique experience in the South and Central Pacific region. The principal mode of spread during the peak of the outbreak was probably through contamination of the main water supply. Tarawa lagoon water and shellfish were found to be contaminated with V. cholerae and ingestion of raw fish and shellfish from the lagoon also served as a source of transmission. This outbreak raises the concern of other outbreaks of cholera occurring on remote and poorly equipped Pacific islands where the environmental circumstances are conducive to cholera spread.

Author Notes

New Zealand Cholera Relief Team: Dr. B. Linehan (leader), Dr. W. R. Lang, Dr. J. Childs, Dr. J. Newman, B. Robertson, D. Norris, P. MacCormack, D. Shaw, S. Marshall, J. Gardner, E. Macleod, and P. Laracy.

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