By DULCIE OREKE
PAPUA New Guinea’s pandemic influenza (H1N1) preparedness and response plan is already in place.
Health Minister Sasa Zibe said this plan was endorsed by the Cabinet in August and one of the important components was public health intervention of which vaccination was a key strategy.
“PNG had 12 confirmed cases of H1N1 last year. All the cases involved travellers who were either foreigners or residents returning from trips abroad.
“Today, we have not seen any community transmission within the country,” Mr Zibe said in a statement last week.
The statement was presented by Health secretary Dr Clement Malau last Thursday at the launching of the H1N1 vaccination at 6-Mile clinic in Port Moresby.
“We faced many challenges like the arrival of H1N1, the outbreak of seasonal influenza and shigellosis in Menyamya, Morobe province, with widespread mortality.
“There was, of course ,the cholera outbreak that started first in Wasu, also in Morobe, and swiftly spreading to Eastern Highlands, Madang and most recently East Sepik province,” Mr Zibe said.
He said history had shown that virus such as H1N1 could come in waves and that according to experts the second and the third waves could be devastating, causing more harm, sufferings and death.
“Therefore, PNG must keep in sync with the rest of the world and continue to be prepared with preventative measures to respond effectively to H1N1,” he added.
Mr Zibe said PNG’s H1N1 preparedness and response plan would not be in place if it was not for the arrival of the vaccine and the general support and efforts of development partners.
The vaccinations for all health workers in NCD will commence after the Easter weekend, in order of priority: All NCD clinic staff, Health Department staff the same with hospital staff because they will conduct their own vaccinations, medical and nursing schools, pregnant mothers and the other target groups will follow.