26 Mar 2007

SPC to establish a Pacific Island Taskforce on avian and pandemic influenza

6:15 am on 26 March 2007

A two day meeting of more than 80 human and animal health officers from Pacific governments and international and regional organisations begins today at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community's or SPC headquarters in New Caledonia.

The 'Pacific Island Pandemic Taskforce Meeting', takes place only a few days after the meeting of Pacific Ministers of

Health in Port Vila, Vanuatu, recognised the importance of being prepared for a pandemic.

Avian influenza is principally a disease of poultry and this is still the current situation.

However, it is possible that the H5N1 strain that is circulating around the world could become transmissible between people, leading to a global influenza pandemic comparable to that of 1918.

An Epidemiologist at SPC, Dr Tom Kiedrzynski, says the 1918 influenza pandemic proved devastating to several PICTs,

killing around 25 per cent of the population in Samoa, 15 per cent in Tahiti and 5 per cent in Fiji and Guam.

He says a pandemic influenza is a serious threat that we must address.