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Papua New Guinea: PNG remains on alert

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  • Papua New Guinea: PNG remains on alert

    Thu, 7 May 2009
    PORT MORESBY, PNG ----- The global swine influenza A (H1N1) pandemic is reportedly “easing down” as governments around the world heighten preventive, containment and treatment measures against the virus, but countries are still on high alert and Papua New Guinea (PNG) PNG is no exception, reports The National.

    PNG’s acting health secretary Mark Mauludu said this at a press conference in Port Moresby yesterday.

    “The swine flu pandemic is still at phase 5 (severe) globally and, as its spread is being controlled worldwide, we still need to take a precautionary stand and remain vigilant at this time in case the need arises,” Mr Mauludu said.

    He said the level of surveillance by PNG at its main ports of entry now met international and World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, which meant they were very effective and ready for suspected cases.

    The current National Influenza Pandemic Task Force, he added, was being revived to carry out thorough monitoring and surveillance and look into maintaining infection control measures at hospitals and airports.
    “Provincial health authorities and respective health workers are on alert and in preparedness right now and are contacting relevant agencies for further advice on the disease,” the acting secretary said.

    WHO yesterday further confirmed ongoing stockpiling of medical equipment including the influenza drug Tamiflu to treat suspected cases with additional supplies to be available in major provincial hospitals.

    NDOH health promotion officials said although possible cases would only be in people having travelled to or in contact with a person who has been to an affected country, the public here was strongly urged to practise simple health tips of covering mouth when coughing or sneezing and washing hands thoroughly with soap or seek medical advice.

    Meanwhile, Air Niugini yesterday imposed strict health measures on all its domestic and international flights in light of the recent global outbreak of the A(H1N1) influenza virus.

    The airline’s chief executive officer, Wasantha Kumarasiri said it was in the public’s best interest that the spread of the virus should be contained and efficiently addressed should it reach the country.

    “We are appealing to the travelling public to cooperate with cabin crew in implementing these measures should passengers with flu symptoms be stopped from boarding or asked to wear a mask or be re-allocated a seat during flights,” Mr Kumarasiri said.

    The announcement in the media last week of measures being stepped up at the Jackson International Airport complemented the airline’s efforts in accordance with international compliance standards in other countries Air Niugini operates to.

    Air Niugini is working in close consultation with the World Health Organisation (WHO) PNG office, the National Department of Health (NDOH), the National Agricultural Quarantine and Inspections Authority (NAQIA), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and international partners.

    CAA also confirmed yesterday that it was providing overall coordination of operations at Jackson Airport with the close support of relevant agencies.

    “Major airlines, including Air Niugini and Airlines PNG, are preparing their own standard operations procedures (SOPs) in compliance with international airline practices on how to deal with possible A (H1N1) influenza cases,” CAA chief executive officer Joseph Kintau said.

    Mr Kintau added that as frontline agencies, Customs, Immigration and Quarantine were also preparing respective procedures in their areas of responsibilities with a medical team from NDOH on standby at the airport.