Swine flu is increasingly becoming a concern for the region with confirmed cases in neighboring New Zealand and now suspected cases in Australia.According to the Australia Network News, the number of people with suspected cases of swine flu around Australia has now reached more than 40.
'12 people in South Australia, 10 in New South Wales and 10 in Queensland have undergone tests, which are now being assessed by medical authorities' while 'five people in the ACT and three each in Tasmania and Western Australia are also being investigated'.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that New Zealand has 3 laboratory confirmed cases.
This is indeed worrying for the region due to its proximity to both countries and trade relations.
Some countries in the region have stepped up control at their borders and put in place measures to try and stop the sickness from reaching their shores.
According to the Samoa Observer, Samoa has put in place three measures, in line with the World Health Organisation and International Health Regulations guidelines, as a means of prevention:
1. Border control surveillance measures have been upgraded for all international ports of entry into Samoa to prevent the likelihood of the introduction of the Swine Influenza A (H1N1) virus.
2. A travel advisory has been distributed to all airlines and shipping agents serving all Samoa international ports of entry requiring that all passengers travelling to Samoa must be screened for flu-like symptoms and exposure to affected areas.
3. Public awareness on basic hygiene practices such as covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and not sharing utensils or cups is re-emphasised as a key preventive measure.
According to Papua New Guinea's The National, while a WHO PNG country representative says that the risk of a swine flu outbreak in the country is currently very low, the National Influenza Pandemic Task Force was set up in collaboration with the National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority (NAQIA), the National Department of Health (NDOH) and airport authorities to put in place a national contingency plan.
WHO also reported a stockpiling of medical supplies, personal protective equipment and antiviral medicines at designated locations in the country if the possibility of an outbreak of the swine influenza (AH1N1) becomes imminent.
According to the report, the Medical Society of PNG president, Dr. Mathias Sapuri, 'said the swine flu alert was a concern for the society and supported the efforts by authorities to keep a strong lookout for the spread of the virus here'.
"This virus will have symptoms similar to the common virus with joint pains, headaches and is passed on just like the common virus and the public is urged to take necessary checkups at a clinic or hospital," Dr Sapuri said.
Fiji has been cautioned about the virus with the WHO asking the country to take precautionary measures following the outbreak worldwide.
According to Fiji Times Online, Fiji is yet to report a case of the flu but WHO medical officer Doctor Jacob Kool admitted "we cannot be sure as the swine flu symptoms are similar to viral infection".
"It is too late to hold the spread and we are asking Fiji to be ready," Dr Kool said.
He added the global concern was that the flu could become pandemic.
"The world is due for a pandemic. A pandemic occurs every 30 to 40 years and we have not had one for more than 40 years," he said.
"The problem is that because it is a completely new virus, people don't have antibodies or resistance to the flu.
"We also do not know the severity of the flu."
According to Fiji Times Online, Fiji's Health media liaison officer, Iliesa Tora, 'said the ministry had systems in place including staff and medication to help in the prevention of swine flu entering and spreading in the country'.
"This system has worked during the avian flu. "We don't see any major concern at the moment but we will continue to review our situation and if we need any assistance from our developing partners, we will ask them," Mr Tora said.
'Dr. Kool stressed that people must wash their hands regularly and also avoid touching their faces'.
For public awareness, the following, according to a Fiji Times Online report, are some further information and preventative measures to take against contracting the sickness:
SWINE flu is spread between humans through personal contact, World Health Organisation medical officer Doctor Jacob Kool said.
With symptoms similar to the seasonal flu, infected persons have high fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and coughing. In Mexico, the flu is mostly affecting those between the ages of 20 years to 40 years with healthy immune systems, which is worrying the WHO.
The flu can be spread through shaking hands, kissing or personal contact. There are two antivirals which have been found to be effective against the new flu - Tamiflu and Relenza.
People are also cautioned to wash their hands regularly with soap and water, stay home if they are sick and avoid close contact with people.
With regards to the consumption of pork, the WHO has assured that it is okay to eat pork or pork products however, it must be well-cooked.
According to its website, swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs.
The swine influenza virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C, corresponding to the general guidance for the preparation of pork and other meat.
For more information please visit the link below to the World Health Organization: