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Pacific Avian and Pandemic Influenza Taskforce to review the 2009 H1N1 experience
Written by Christelle Lepers   
Monday, 24 May 2010

ImageThe 2009 Influenza A (H1N1) pandemic showed how important it is for Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) to have preparedness and response plans in place along with resources to implement them.

A three-day meeting of the Pacific Avian and Pandemic Influenza Taskforce (PAPITaF) just started today (Tuesday 25 May 2010) in Nadi, Fiji Islands, to examine the region’s responses to H1N1 and identify how pandemic preparedness and response plans can be improved.

Almost all PICTs were affected by the H1N1 pandemic influenza last year. Only Niue, Tokelau and Pitcairn Islands had no cases recorded. 

‘Fortunately the disease was moderate in severity,’ says Mrs Jennie Fischer, coordinator of the Pacific Regional Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Project (PRIPPP) at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). ‘Its impact in the region was mitigated by the plans that PICTs have been preparing in recent years with support from PRIPPP and other partners, but the pandemic also revealed some weak points.’  

At this major regional forum, PICTs will be able to make recommendations on the medium and longer term support they need to strengthen their capacities to respond to a possible second wave of H1N1 or other pandemics.  

Around 60 health professionals, involved in both human and animal health, from 22 Pacific governments and international/regional organisations will take part in the discussions.

‘It’s important for professionals from animal and human health sectors to meet at forums like this because we know that approximately 75 per cent of human emerging diseases are ‘zoonoses’ (animal-based diseases),’ adds Mrs Fischer.

‘The region remains vulnerable to the introduction of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A/H5N1 virus, which has killed 60 per cent of the people who have contracted it so far. We must stay vigilant.’

The meeting will also look at ongoing activities to improve the region’s ability to respond to any other emerging diseases. This is in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Health Regulations and the aims of the PRIPP project.

The PAPITaF meeting is being organised by SPC under the PRIPP project, with financial assistance from the Australian (AusAID) and New Zealand (NZAID) agencies for international development.

PRIPPP is a four-year project (2006–2010) designed to build the capacity of PICTs to deal with the potential threat of emerging infectious diseases, in particular avian influenza and pandemic influenza. It is implemented by SPC in collaboration with WHO, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It covers 22 Pacific Island countries and territories.

For more information, please contact Jennie Fischer, Coordinator of the Pacific Regional Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Project at SPC (email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ); Mobile: (679) 944 3195 or +679 6720277 (ext. PAPITaF Conference Secretariat), or 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.

 

Last Updated ( Monday, 24 May 2010 )