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PNG medical workers still on alert

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, May 7, 2009) – The global swine influenza A(H1N1) pandemic is reportedly "easing down" as governments around the world heighten preventive, containment and treatment measures against the virus, but countries are still on high alert and PNG is no exception.

Acting Health secretary Mark Mauludu said this at a press conference in Port Moresby yesterday.

Meanwhile, Air Niugini yesterday imposed special health measures on all its domestic and international services as a precautionary step to prevent the arrival or spread of the virus.

"The swine flu pandemic is still at phase 5 (severe) globally and, as its spread is being controlled worldwide, we still need to take a precautionary stand and remain vigilant at this time in case the need arises," Mr Mauludu said.

He said the level of surveillance by PNG at its main ports of entry now met international and World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, which meant they were very effective and ready for suspected cases.

The current National Influenza Pandemic Task Force, he added, was being revived to carry out thorough monitoring and surveillance and look into maintaining infection control measures at hospitals and airports.

"Provincial health authorities and respective health workers are on alert and in preparedness right now and are contacting relevant agencies for further advice on the disease," the acting secretary said.

WHO yesterday further confirmed ongoing stockpiling of medical equipment including the influenza drug Tamiflu to treat suspected cases with additional supplies to be available in major provincial hospitals.

NDOH health promotion officials said although possible cases would only be in people having travelled to or in contact with a person who has been to an affected country, the public here was strongly urged to practise simple health tips of covering mouth when coughing or sneezing and washing hands thoroughly with soap or seek medical advice.

The second briefing by NDOH with the media yesterday on PNG’s efforts to fight a possible swine flu outbreak here included WHO, NAQIA and AusAID representatives.

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