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Regional effort to address foodborne diseases

SPC Press Release: Regional effort to address foodborne diseases and food chain surveillance

Friday 20 October 2006, SPC Headquarters (Noumea, New Caledonia) — Public health specialists, practitioners and laboratory technicians from 12 Pacific Island countries and territories will take part in a week-long, regional training workshop on “Global Salmonella surveillance for the Pacific region” in Suva, Fiji (23–27 October 2006).

Salmonella are germs that cause foodborne diseases (illnesses contracted from consuming contaminated food or drinks). These diseases are usually confirmed by laboratory tests that identify the causative germ, but the tests are often not available in Pacific Island countries and territories.

“This training workshop will strengthen the ability of Pacific Island laboratories to detect Salmonella germs, which will help in controlling foodborne diseases and improving food chain surveillance,” says Dr Narendra Singh, Pandemic Preparedness and Training Specialist at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

“For the first time, public health practitioners and microbiology technicians will train together, which will help build teamwork within countries for responding to foodborne disease and other outbreaks in general.”

Typhoid fever is an example of a foodborne disease caused by a Salmonella germ. In the last 10 years, outbreaks of typhoid fever have been reported from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Nauru, Vanuatu, Marshall Islands and Papua New Guinea. In Fiji, for example, an outbreak affected more than 180 people in 2005 and the problem persists.

The training will give participants the skills to detect and respond to typhoid fever outbreaks as well as outbreaks of other foodborne diseases caused by Salmonella and other germs.

This first workshop is targeting 12 selected countries: Cooks Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Another workshop for participants from other Pacific Islands will be held in 2007.

The training is being organised by SPC in collaboration with the Pasteur Institutes of Paris and New Caledonia, the Fiji School of Medicine, Fiji’s Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (WHO Global Salmonella Surveillance team), OZ Foodnet, Australian National University, and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research of New Zealand.

The training is mainly funded through the Pacific Regional Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Project, coordinated by SPC and financed by AusAID and NZAID, and the French Pacific Fund via the Pasteur Institute of New Caledonia.


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