Strengthening influenza surveillance in the Pacific

ImageA workshop aimed at reviewing and strengthening current influenza surveillance systems in the Pacific Island region was held in Fiji last week.

Outbreaks of influenza can occur at any time of the year in Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs), with the continual movement of people in and out of the region. The disease can also spread easily between PICTs, as demonstrated during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic.

‘We try to make sure that all PICTs, including the most remote islands, can send samples for testing to laboratories for detection and identification of influenza viruses,’ said Salanieta Elbourne, Laboratory Specialist at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

It is crucial for PICTs to be able to detect and confirm outbreaks of influenza quickly in order to respond effectively.

Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu, Deputy Director-General of SPC, emphasised at the opening of the workshop that‘Curtailing the spread of influenza is important because it not only affects the health of the population, it also impacts on the social, economic and financial aspects of a nation.’

SPC backs team approach for Vanuatu health

ImageSPC is supporting a new team approach by development partners to help Vanuatu deliver its national health strategy. At a ceremony on 25 January in Port Vila, Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman, pictured left, signed the joint partnership arrangement (JPA) between his government and development partners AusAID, UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA and SPC for the delivery of the Vanuatu Health Sector Strategy 2010-2016. Others pictured are from left to right: Minister for Health Don Ken, Director Public Health, Len Tarivonda (drinking on behalf of Health Minister), Australian High Commissioner Jeff Roach, and Chief Liaison Officer WHO. Dr Bernard Fabre-teste. Director of SPC's Public Health Division, Mr Bill Parr, signed on behalf of SPC which is a member on the joint partnership working group.

Regional Workshop "LabNet 2010"

A major gathering of Pacific human and animal health laboratory professionals took place from 1 to 4 November 2010 in Suva, Fiji Islands to assess current laboratory testing and specimen shipment procedures in relation to identifying and controlling priority epidemic diseases such as dengue fever, influenza, typhoid fever and cholera.

The 2009 pandemic influenza H1N1 reminded us how easily epidemic diseases can spread from country to country, including in the Pacific. It is very important for Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) to have access to laboratory tools to detect epidemic diseases quickly in order to minimise their health and socioeconomic impacts.

The workshop was organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in collaboration with the Fiji School of Medicine (FSMed) and other partners under the framework of the Pacific Public Health Laboratory Network (LabNet).

Women are central to the battle on NCDs, conference hears

The central role of women in the battle against non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Pacific was reaffirmed at the 11th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women at SPC headquarters in Noumea.

ImageUnited Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reproductive health adviser Dr Wame Baravilala, back row second from right, at the 11th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Noumea (SPC Photograph, 18 August 2010). 

SPC Healthy Lifestyle section head Dr Viliami Puloka told the conference on August 18 that NCDs in the Pacific were of a tsunami magnitude.

‘But unlike tsunamis, NCDs are sticking around,’ he said.

Breaking the silence controlling STIs in the Pacific

ImageWednesday 25 August, Noumea, SPC – For all the beauty and extraordinary richness of the Pacific, the region also holds some sad records.  Recent surveys on HIV and other STIs (sexually transmitted infections) in the region show that on average, one in four sexually active young people in the Pacific have an STI, with a chlamydia prevalence in youth of up to 40% – among the highest rates in the world*.

In response to these disturbing findings, the Pacific Regional STI Working Group was established to review the situation and provide evidence-based recommendations to countries to help reduce the prevalence of STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis. The Working Group comprises technical specialists from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Oceania Society for Sexual Health and HIV Medicine (OSSHHM).

Inform'ACTION 32 is out!

ImageTitle: Moving towards standardised syndromic surveillance

Contributions include articles on a recrudescence of leptospirosis in French Polynesia in early 2010, results of an assessment of NS1 antigen detection tests during DEN-4 epidemic in French Polynesia, Pandemic H1N1 2009 in Niue (Open borders with no cases), the laboratory-based influenza surveillance project (achievements and opportunities), moving ahead with influenza surveillance in Pacific Island countries and territories, susceptibility to anti-TB drugs of M. tuberculosis strains isolated in Kiribati 2008–2009, a framework to address multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in Pacific Island countries and territories, a standardised syndromic and event-based surveillance system for the Pacific Islands, the 16th Meeting of the PPHSN Coordinating Body and a French Pacific Territories Workshop. 

Access all the articles on line.

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