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WHO and SPC donate personal protective equipment and Tamiflu to Fiji Ministry of Health
Written by Christelle Lepers   
Thursday, 09 July 2009
ImageThe World Health Organization (WHO) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) are supporting Fiji's response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic, with financial help from Australia and New Zealand. 

During the past two weeks, WHO donated 157,000 capsules of Tamiflu to Fiji. Approximately 10,000 additional capsules have also been sent to Fiji by SPC. Pandemic H1N1 influenza is a mild illness in most persons; therefore WHO recommends giving Tamiflu only to patients with risk factors for severe influenza. These supplies provide Fiji with enough antiviral medication to treat approximately 2% of the population. For protection of health care workers taking care of patients with severe influenza cases, both agencies are also donating a large amount of personal protective equipment:

•  Surgical masks (WHO provided 48,000; SPC will provide an additional 370,000);
•  Latex examination gloves (WHO will provide 82,000; SPC 740,000)
•  Aprons/gowns (WHO 41,000; SPC 77,000)
•  Alcohol-based hand disinfectant (WHO 400 litres; SPC 2,500 litres).   

These donations were made possible with support from the Australian and New Zealand government agencies for international development, and Roche, the manufacturer of Tamiflu.

Fiji is the first Pacific country to have received the masks, but supplies are currently being shipped to 11 other Pacific Island countries and territories: Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

WHO assisted Fiji to build a state-of-the-art laboratory in Tamavua to diagnose influenza, including the new H1N1 illness, and both WHO and SPC are supporting many other countries in strengthening laboratory capacity and surveillance in collaboration with other partners such as the US Centers for Disease Control.

The illness is spreading rapidly in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Although the Fiji Islands government is taking the appropriate measures to slow the spread of the illness, it is expected that more cases will appear in Fiji in the coming days and weeks.

Dr. Chen, the WHO representative for the South Pacific, points out that in most patients the illness is mild. However, in a small percentage of cases the illness may become more serious. People at risk of developing severe influenza are persons with underlying conditions such as diabetes, obesity, chronic heart disease, asthma; the very old; the very young; people who have a weakened immune system; and pregnant women.

WHO and SPC call on the public to help slow the spread of this disease.
Like most respiratory infections, influenza is mostly transmitted through direct contact such as shaking hands, or at short distances by coughing or sneezing. WHO advises people to:

•  wash hands thoroughly with soap and water on a regular basis,
•  cover their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing,
•  not touch their face,
•  seek medical attention if they develop any symptoms of influenza-like illness, and
•  stay at home if they are ill.

If you notice an unusual amount of flu-like illness in your community, call your nearest health facility immediately.

People who are ill should stay home from work or school, and postpone travel. Those developing symptoms within 7 days following international travel or following any other exposure to nfluenza patients should seek medical attention.

In addition to the above advice, travellers travelling to affected areas are also advised to avoid:

•  crowded situations, especially indoors;
•  shaking hands and kissing when exchanging greetings; and
•  close contact (less than 2 metres) with people who are obviously ill.

Additional information is available from the following:

WHO global website:
The Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network website: /PPHSN/Outbreak/Influenza_A_H1N1.htm
WHO South Pacific website:
CDC H1N1 flu website:

Or by contacting the WHO South Pacific office: +679-3234100 or Jennie Fischer, PRIPPP Coordinator at SPC Noumea - Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it   - Tel:+687 26 67 80

Last Updated ( Thursday, 09 July 2009 )