20 Jul 2015

Islanders consider global pandemic scenario

1:08 pm on 20 July 2015

Great Barrier Island residents are to consider the scenario of the island being the only part of the country not hit by a pandemic.

Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island Photo: 123RF

The exercise is being organised by the local branch of Rural Women New Zealand and its president Gendie Somerville-Ryan said the project was based on a scenario produced by the World Health Organisation for countries to use when planning for pandemics.

She said they wanted to find out how quickly society would break down on the mainland, and how the island community would cope.

"It is important to have disaster preparedness, health awareness and part of it is building a community spirit by giving people the opportunity to get together to discuss an issue."

Ms Sommerville-Ryan said if a pandemic began in January it could travel right around the world by September.

"It's basically exactly what you saw with something like Ebola, a new strain breaks out, it's uncontrollable, people get on aeroplanes, they travel, you can't stop it, and even if countries lock down it's very difficult to stop that virus from spreading."

A panel of experts, including virologist Dr Lance Jennings, John Titmus from the Ministry of Civil Defence, Professor David Johnston who is Director of the Joint Centre for Disaster Research at Massey University and science fiction writer Karen Healey will discuss the scenario at a talk in September.

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