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Cool heads required in pandemic prep

Cool heads required in pandemic prep

Cultural practices that could be affected by a potential influenza pandemic will be discussed with Maori communities, Associate Minister of Health Mita Ririnui said today.

"With respect to Maori cultural practices such as tangi, we would expect direction to come from Maori communities on how safe influenza pandemic infection control measures would best work for them,'' he said.

"There are no specific policies around this at the moment, and, in spite of a recent report to the contrary, the government has no plan in place to impose any ban on funerals or tangi.

"A huge amount of work is being carried out by the Ministry of Health and by all District Health Boards to prepare for a possible influenza pandemic.

"As part of this work the Ministry is meeting soon with a Maori clinical group to identify what the key practices would be for Maori communities, in the event of an influenza pandemic.

"Because this is such an important issue, this work will be discussed with iwi and Maori communities.''

Mita Ririnui said that because influenza is a respiratory disease spread in the droplets of coughs and sneezes, social distancing will be one of the measures that will form an important role in reducing the spread of infection in an influenza pandemic.

"During the 1918 pandemic more than 2100 Maori died from the Spanish Flu. Reflected in today's population, significantly many more thousands of Maori could expect to perish. Anything we can do to mitigate that type of scenario must be discussed openly.

"Clearly there are many situations and social gatherings where communities will need to keep this in mind,'' he said.

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