SIX SUSPECTED SWINE FLU CASES REPORTED IN PNG

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Family in Milne Bay province quarantined

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 11, 2009) – Six cases of suspected swine flu have been reported in the country.

A teacher at a high school in Alotau in Milne Bay Province and her family have been quarantined since yesterday after her husband was reported to have developed symptoms of the Influenza A (H1N1).

The man is understood to be quite ill. Sources informed the Post-Courier that the man works with the Milne Bay provincial education office and was attending a short course in Brisbane, Australia, and had returned to Alotau on Sunday.

Health officers did not pick up the case until Tuesday.

The sources said the Milne Bay provincial disease control officers were scheduled to talk to the students and staff at his school this morning about the situation.

Although his case falls within the case definition, it could be a seasonal flu and not the influenza A (H1N1), commonly known as the swine flu. At a Port Moresby meeting ear-lier in the day, a technical team comprising WHO officers and the Health Department staff said nasal swabs taken from the suspect in Alotau were sent by courier to Port Moresby late in the afternoon to be put together with the samples taken from five other suspects in Port Moresby and sent for tests in Melbourne. Results will be known in 48 hours.

The team, including Berry Ropa from the Health Department, who is manning the National Health Department’s surveillance hotline on 72042222, said there were two other suspect cases reported earlier but results were negative.

The technical team said although PNG had yet to confirmed a case, they unanimously agreed that due to the fast spread of the virus in Australia, it was likely to hit PNG at any time and they had to prepare.

"The likelihood of the pandemic coming to our shores is very, very high because of Australia where the cases have now gone beyond 1000,’’ deputy health secretary Dr Pasion Dakulala, who expressed concern that the precautionary measures being taken in Port Moresby had yet to be replicated in the provinces, said.

Yesterday’s meeting looked at the gaps of the preparedness plan, including distributing advocacy materials to the schools with the help of the national Education Department; improving surveillance in provinces as well as improving manpower of health workers at the international ports of entries; purchasing of surgical masks for customs and immigrations officers at the international airports as well as airline staff who are dealing with suspect cases; and improving collaboration for testing and data collection among both the private and public health facilities.

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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