Friday, June 19, 2009

Swine flu is in Papua New Guinea

From The National, Papua New Guinea’s leading daily newspaper

  • First A(H1N1) case confirmed
  • No need to panic: Malau
  •  Infected person in Port Moresby
  • Contact tracing begins


THE influenza A (H1N1) or swine flu has entered Papua New Guinea, two months after the virus was first detected in Mexico.

The Health Department yesterday announced that tests had confirmed one case of swine flu from the 16 samples sent to the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne, Australia.

Health Department secretary Dr Clement Malau called a media conference in Port Moresby late yesterday afternoon to announce PNG’s first confirmed case.

Details of the person including identity, gender, nationality and exact location are being withheld as authorities try to locate the person and carry out further investigations.

Dr Malau did say that the person had recently travelled overseas and developed influenza-like symptoms.

He said further investigations were being conducted by his department, and stressed that there was no need for the public to panic.

The reporting of PNG’s first swine flu case comes a week after the World Health Organisation declared it a full-blown worldwide pandemic – the first in 41 years.

A member of the influenza task force surveillance team told The National last night that the infected person had flown into PNG from Australia last weekend and the team immediately launched contact tracing procedures.

He did not give details of the aircraft, or what airline the infected person travelled in, or from which city in Australia.

“We will find out the flight the person came in and contact the airline for the passenger manifest. We would like to identify the passengers who sat at least two rows to the front and back of this person,” he said.

As of last night, the team was trying to contact the infected person, and seek details of people the person would have come in contact with.

He confirmed that the person was a resident of Port Moresby, but did not give the exact place of residence.

Since the person developed the influenza-like illness and went in for testing, the person had been under “in-house quarantine”. This means that the person was told to stay at home and avoid contact with anyone.

“The contact tracing effort is a massive exercise and is under way right now,” he said.

Dr Malau said in his statement that further investigations would be conducted by NDOH as every precaution was being taken to follow up close contacts of the person, including family members, to determine if they had contacted the illness, in preparation for the seven-day quarantine period.

Dr Malau stressed that there should be no panic, adding that personal hygiene remained vital in the fight against swine flu.

“All Papua New Guineans can do their bit by following simple hygiene procedures, such as regular hand washing with soap and water, covering their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, and staying home if they are sick,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Health Department yesterday reported that three more people had been listed as possible infections, raising the number of suspected cases to 19.

WHO PNG head of delegation, Dr Eigil Sorensen, was present yesterday to officially receive the announcement from Mr Malau and commended the national efforts for ensuring a workable health system was in place to detect the suspected cases previously.

He said the confirmation of PNG’s first case was “in line with expectations” given the situation in neighbouring Australia and globally.

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