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Plan to respond to an influenza pandemic

20 September 2006

Latest version of plan to respond to an influenza pandemic released

A bigger and better version of New Zealand’s plan for responding to an influenza pandemic was released by the Ministry of Health today.

The New Zealand Inlfuenza Pandemic Action Plan (NZIPAP) is an Appendix of the National Health Emergency Plan: Infectious Diseases.

This version has been updated to include feedback from stakeholders including District Health Boards and other parts of the health sector, as well as other government agencies, after consultation on the previous version. The new plan also reflects the work done both within the health sector and in other government agencies since publication of the previous version was released earlier this year.

Health Ministry National Coordinator Pandemic Planning, Steve Brazier said new or updated material included section in the plan includes District Health Board and All of Government planning, ethical and community issues, coordination arrangements for pandemic response, information on Maori as tangata whenua, legislation and response functions including public health interventions and health services and recovery.

“There is also a draft appendix which details antiviral use in each stage of a pandemic. This can only ever be a draft strategy till we know what the pandemic strain is,” Mr Brazier said.

The government has stockpiled 835,000 treatment courses of the antiviral Tamiflu, which is enough to cover 21 percent of the population. It has also bought 845,000 treatment courses of those antibiotics used to treat the most common respiratory illnesses, and 20 million masks.

“We don’t know have effective tamiflu is going to be against the pandemic strain, so we have weighed options, used modelling scenarios, and worked out what is an optimal amount to have. These levels and those of other supplies will be reviewed as more overseas information comes to hand.”

Mr Brazier said the next step for the Ministry’s pandemic team is to exercise the plan.

“New Zealand has been recognised internationally as one of the most advanced countries in terms of pandemic planning and preparedness. Clearly we want our Government and our citizens to be as well prepared as possible so they can respond appropriately.

“But plans are no use if they don’t work. So over the next ten months there will be a period of exercising of the pandemic plans culminating in a major multi-agency exercise, Cruickshank, in May 2007. “

The exercise is being named after Dr Margaret Cruickshank who became the first woman to enter general practice in New Zealand. She completed the degree of Doctor of Medicine from Otago in 1903 and gained further qualifications in Edinburgh and Dublin before moving to Waimate where she practiced. She cared for many people in the area before dying of influenza related pneumonia in November 1918. In 1923 a statue was placed in Seddon Park in Waimate in her memory, one of only two erected to doctors in New Zealand.

This current version of the plan is the final to be completed as a result of the intensive period of planning for a pandemic. This work is now being reincorporated into the wider emergency management work of the Ministry of Health. Revisions of the NZIPAP will take place on a yearly basis as part of a regular review of emergency plans.

The plan, and questions and answers relating to pandemic influenza, are available on the Ministry of Health website www.moh.govt.nz/pandemicinfluenza

ENDS


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