SECRETARIAT OF THE PACIFIC COMMUNITY / FIJI SCHOOL OF MEDECINE
JOINT PRESS RELEASE
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).
Created in 2000, LabNet is a human health network that provides laboratory diagnostic tools and technical support to 22 PICTs.* The idea of this network came from the recognition that many Pacific Islands had little or no ready access to public health laboratory services.
A number of activities and improvements have occurred since the creation of the network. For example, influenza testing capacity has been established in 14 countries and shipping procedures and confirmation mechanisms for communicable diseases have been established with reference laboratories in Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii.
Animal health laboratory professionals recently also formed a network (PAHLNet). The operating procedures in animal and human health laboratories are not always the same, but the challenges are similar and PAHLNet can certainly benefit from LabNet experience.
Collaboration between human and animal health professionals increased with SPC’s Pacific Regional Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Project and will be strengthened at the November workshop.
All participants received training in packing and transporting infectious substances by air from a certified specialist from the Pacific Island Health Officers’ Association.
The workshop also focussed on identifying country-specific laboratory training needs and provided the opportunity to review the progress of LabNet and plan further development of the two networks.
Technical experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) assisted SPC and FSMed organisers, together with specialists from reference laboratories in Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii and the Pacific Paramedical Training Centre in New Zealand.
Financial assistance for this workshop was provided by the Australian Agency for International Development, the New Zealand Aid Programme, CDC and FSMed.
For more information, please contact:
Christelle Lepers, Surveillance Information Officer at SPC (Tel.: 679 8662932 or C/o Novotel Hotel in Suva 679 336 2450 – Email:
Christopher Jackson, Medical Lab Science Program at Fiji School of Medicine (Tel.: 679 3233014 / 7610926), or
Irene Miller, Marketing and Communications at Fiji School of Medicine (Tel.: 679 3233210 / 99989470)
*American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.