Twenty-one die from tetanus, 138 mentally ill in Yogyakarta

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Twenty-one people have died from tetanus and 138 others are suffering from mental health problems in the aftermath of last month's earthquake that devastated Yogyakarta and parts of Central Java, the Health Ministry said Friday.

The ministry said some 600 people were suffering from respiratory infections and 100 others from diarrheal diseases.

Sixty people were infected with tetanus from rubble produced by the quake and 37 of them were still undergoing hospital treatment, the ministry said in a report.

Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said Friday most of the people with tetanus were elderly men.

"Those infected with tetanus were infected not just by falling rubble but also when rebuilding their homes," Siti said.

She said the ministry had taken preemptive actions to curb the outbreak of post-quake diseases. "Since early this month, we have carried out immunizations against measles and tetanus and have given vitamin A (supplements) to babies."

A day after the May 27 quake that killed 5,700 people and left more than 340,000 people homeless, the ministry sent 12,400 vials of tetanus vaccinations to Yogyakarta and Central Java.

"We think the (tetanus vaccinations) are sufficient at the moment," Siti said.

Tetanus, the only vaccine-preventable disease that is not communicable but acquired through exposure to bacteria, usually occurs after an acute injury when dirt enters a wound or cut, causing infection.

Siti said most patients who came to hospitals or other medical centers were suffering from broken bones.

She said some patients had not been operated on because doctors needed to observe them first.

The ministry said it was working with the World Health Organization, the Klaten Mental Hospital and two medical departments at the University of Indonesia and Gadjah Mada University to do rapid mental health assessments for people showing signs of trauma after the quake.

The ministry has also sent mental health nurses and psychologists to seven local clinics and six hospitals in Yogyakarta.

Siti said a diarrheal disease outbreak was still a concern because babies were frequently being given instant formula milk by their mothers instead of being breast fed.
This was because survivors had received a large amount of donated supplies of breast milk substitutes, she said.

"Children who have never consumed breast milk substitutes are in greater danger of suffering from diarrhea," said the minister.

She said the central government had focused on three priorities since the first days after the earthquake.

The first was to treat all injured patients and others experiencing physical and mental trauma.

The second was to prevent disease outbreaks and infections after surgery. Officials were also trying to repair damaged government health clinics as quickly as possible.
The report said the earthquake had destroyed or damaged 39 local government clinics and 84 community health posts in Yogyakarta, and 11 clinics and 56 posts in Central Java.