NZ's influenza pandemic preparedness 'world class'

Last updated 00:00 30/10/2007

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New Zealand's state of preparedness for an influenza pandemic has been shown to be world class, the Ministry of Health says.

Key findings were released today from the pandemic response Exercise Cruickshank, held in May.

Four stages of a pandemic response across more than 40 government agencies and organisations and all District Health Boards and Public Health Units were conducted.

It tested border control measures, quarantine and hospital plans, the early detection and isolation of patients, use of antiviral drugs, communicating information to the public and media and the set up of Community Based Assessment Centres (CBACs) to assess and treat people with pandemic influenza.

National pandemic planning co-ordinator Steve Brazier said one of the main purposes of the exercise was to make operational the New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Action Plan.

The plan would now be revised, using experience gained in the exercise, into more of a "how to do it" document, he said.

Fifteen international observers from the World Health Organisation, the Australian Department of Health, Niue, Tokelau, New Caledonia and the British Government were invited to watch the exercise.

The observers were very impressed with New Zealand's state of preparedness, and the level of buy-in and co-operation from various government agencies, Mr Brazier said.

"The purpose of exercises like this is to identify areas for improvement so that New Zealand is better prepared for, and able to respond to, a real influenza pandemic.

"New Zealanders can be assured that when a pandemic hits this country, we will be ready. And it is a case of `when' not `if'."

The country could not afford to become complacent about the possibility of an influenza pandemic, Mr Brazier said.

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- NZPA

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