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SARS Nurses At NZ's International Airports

17 April 2003

SARS nurses at NZ's international airports

NURSES are now on site at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch airports to assist people with information and advice about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the Ministry of Health said today.


From Saturday there will also be a nurse on duty at Queenstown airport to meet international travellers.

"Close to 40 nurses are now trained to offer information, advice and assistance to people anxious about SARS," acting Director of Public Health Dr Doug Lush said.

"They will be on duty round the clock in Auckland - our busiest international airport - and in time bands which cover the arrival of international flights in Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown."

"We believe having nurses stationed at clearly-identified SARS information sites is a welcome addition to the range of measures we now have in place to protect New Zealanders against this disease."

Dr Lush said existing measures made it unlikely the nurses would be called on to deal with actual cases - although they were competent to do so if necessary.

"It's important to recognise that international air passengers are subject to assessment at several different points on their journeys: the World Health Organisation has recommended that airports in the worst-affected countries assess departing passengers for obvious signs of ill health; all airlines know what to look for and have information to hand out to passengers; we have reminded flight crew of their obligations (under international health conventions to which New Zealand is a signatory) to radio ahead and advise if they are carrying seriously unwell passengers, we have provided SARS alert posters for entry halls at international airports and we have paramedics and public health personnel on standby.

Dr Lush said a new precaution includes a stand-down period for blood donors who have recently travelled in countries most-affected by SARS.

"Although there is currently no evidence that the infection can be transmitted by blood and blood products, we are asking donors recently returned from most affected countries like China and Hong Kong to defer giving blood for two weeks as an extra safeguard. This is in line with what's happening in Australia."

Dr Lush said the Ministry of Health was constantly reviewing and refining its SARS preparedness.

"From day one we have been committed to ensuring that New Zealanders are sufficiently well-informed to make sensible decisions, and that our health professionals, travel and border control agencies have the information and the tools they need to help protect New Zealanders against SARS.

"We have been delighted with the willingness of all the other agencies with whom we are working to co-operate in the best interests of all New Zealanders."

For more information see www.moh.govt.nz/sars or call the Ministry of Health information line 0800 0800 80.

Note: The Ministry is updating its travel advisory, which can be viewed on the Ministry website.

ENDS

For more information contact: Marama Ellis Media Advisor Ministry of Health Ph: 021 802 622


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