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Pandemic influenza preparedness to help control other emerging diseases
Written by Christelle Lepers   
Saturday, 22 November 2008

ImageNext week, the Pacific Avian and Pandemic Influenza Taskforce (PAPITaF) will meet in Nadi, Fiji Islands, from Monday 24 to Wednesday 26 November, to discuss the current state of preparedness for possible outbreaks of infectious diseases such as bird flu, pandemic influenza and other emerging infectious diseases.

‘Preparedness for avian and pandemic influenza will help the Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) to control other emerging scourges like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) as well as controlling current epidemics like dengue fever,’ says Dr Tom Kiedrzynski, Epidemiologist at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

A one-day workshop on dengue fever will be held on Thursday 27 November following the three-day regional forum on avian and pandemic influenza preparedness. 

According to Dr Ken Cokanasiga, Animal Health and Production Adviser at SPC, ‘PICTs are still vulnerable to the introduction of the deadly bird flu H5N1 virus which is persisting in many countries in the world, including countries close to the Pacific Island region, such as Indonesia. 

‘The threat of an influenza pandemic is persisting but PICTs are now facing the beginning of a new regional dengue pandemic and this is an obvious priority—scarce resources need to be used wisely,’ adds Dr Tom Kiedrzynski.

Participating in the PAPITaF meeting will be over 80 animal and human health senior officers and disaster management representatives from 21 PICTs and several international/regional organisations to assess the progress since the first meeting of the taskforce in March last year.

The meeting will address both practical measures that PICTs can apply to manage the risk of bird flu and an influenza pandemic as well as broader policy considerations on issues such as travel restrictions (including border closure), regional travel arrangements, trade maintenance, compensation funding mechanisms and early detection of disease agents in animals that are infectious to humans.

Given the current dengue (DEN-4) resurgence in the Pacific Island region, SPC and the World Health Organization (WHO) will take the opportunity to use the gathering of regional expertise for the PAPITaF meeting to address some of the dengue-related issues with the country representatives.

Capacity development in avian and pandemic influenza preparedness (e.g., surveillance and response, social mobilization, multi-sectoral approaches, legal frameworks for response, hospital surge capacity) benefits epidemic preparedness in general and can be tailored to better control dengue fever and other communicable diseases

Animal health specialists will also convene following the three-day workshop to discuss a range of issues specific to improving regional response capacity for emergency animal diseases that may threaten not only food security but also human lives.

The PAPITaF meeting is being organised by SPC in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the WHO, under the Pacific Regional Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Project (PRIPPP), with financial assistance from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID). It comes also under the umbrellas of the Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network (PPHSN) and the Pacific Heads of Veterinary & Animal Production Services (PHOVAPS).

For more information, please contact: Christelle Lepers, Surveillance Information Officer at SPC (email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ) – Tel: (687) 26 01 81 (Friday 21 November) – Mobile: (679) 944 3195 (from Saturday 22 to Friday 28 November).

Last Updated ( Saturday, 22 November 2008 )