Infections In Chuuk Raise Concerns

by Scott Radway

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News): July 23, 2002 - Guam Memorial Hospital nurse Jennifer Rosario was one of the first to fly to Chuuk State to help tend to the injured after landslides killed nearly 50 people, injured dozens and left more than 1,000 homeless.

Rosario was there to see the sad state of affairs following the July 2 rain-induced disaster. She watched so many people come into the small state hospital to be bandaged and she watched as some showed up too late.

"One man looked at us, holding up his infected thumb and asked 'Do you think you can save it?'" Rosario said. "But it was dead."

The thumb was amputated. So was the leg of another man and two toes on another. Infection is one of the major problems doctors and nurses in Chuuk are dealing with in the wake of the disaster.

Rosario was there only four days.

"It was really bad down there. They don't have any supplies; they don't have any equipment; they don't have anything," Rosario said.

Yesterday, she was reminded things haven't gotten much better, when two patients from Chuuk arrived at Guam Memorial Hospital in desperate need of wound care. Another patient is expected later this week.

Rosario said the lack of supplies and staffing prevents the daily cleaning of wounds.

A Chuukese woman yesterday was immediately rolled into the surgical unit where doctors cleaned her wounds. Rosario said it is possible, with a fight, she will be able to keep her leg. A man in need of intensive wound care also was expected to keep his leg.

Carlotta Leon Guerrero, co-director of the Guam-based Ayuda Foundation, said that because there is such a severe shortage of clean water, minor cuts are turning into major problems as infections set in.

Ayuda has spearheaded humanitarian efforts to Chuuk State, one of the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia. Chuuk is about 620 miles southeast of Guam, and has a population of 47,000.

"Everything is getting infected and getting worse," Leon Guerrero. "We have to pay careful attention to the situation down there."

Leon Guerrero said another shipment of medical supplies to Chuuk should be sent today along with a few medical personnel from Guam.

Another major issue in Chuuk during the recovery is the outbreak of cholera, Leon Guerrero said. Because of the inability to maintain good hygiene and because people are living in cramped temporary housing, disease could break out, and its spread would be rapid.

"Cholera is something that they are keeping their eye out for," Leon Guerrero said.

officials could not be reached for comment yesterday because of apparent problems with the state's phone system.