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Seminar to assist pandemic preparation

MEDIA RELEASE
New Zealand Society for Risk Management Inc
October 10, 2005


Seminar to assist pandemic preparation


The organisers of a seminar on bird flu expect the event will assist government agencies and organisations plan for the feared Avian Influenza pandemic.

Roger Estall, chair of the NZ Society for Risk Management half-day seminar titled “Avian Influenza (bird flu) – the next pandemic”, says it comes at a time when other countries are holding similar meetings and conferences to prepare for what is perceived as a “ticking time bomb”.

“Governments across the world are all preparing for when, not if, the pandemic strikes. New Zealand is doing the same, looking at ways to effectively plan and identify possible gaps in our strategies to manage the outbreak when bird flu breaks the barrier to become a human-to-human virus.

“In many ways the bird flu pandemic is like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, particularly with reports coming in about outbreaks among poultry in new areas and the confirmation of deaths from the virus after contact with infected poultry.”

The afternoon seminar, to be held at Te Papa National Museum in Wellington on November 1, will cover such topics as the risk management process, the impacts on people during and after a pandemic, border controls and World Health Organisation and Ministry of Health responsibilities for declaring the pandemic. It will contrast the complexity of New Zealand’s society now with this country’s situation in previous pandemics.

Speakers from the Ministries of Health, Economic Development, Civil Defence and Emergency Management and Department of Customs have been confirmed, meaning the seminar will provide an opportunity for government agencies to compare their pandemic planning work as well as provide information to attendees about bird flu in general.

“We need to impress upon people and organisations that when the bird flu pandemic occurs that New Zealand borders will probably be closed and the country will go into a state of lock-down to avoid large scale infection,” Mr Estall says.

“There are some who don’t seem to recognise that if they’re expecting an international delegation of visitors for a business meeting, they probably won’t get here. Therefore, everyone needs to be prepared, not only for the virus but also how they may conduct their business if no-one is coming in and no-one is going out.”

Mr Estall says the seminar is not about inciting panic or fear, rather it is about preparation.

“We know that the bird flu pandemic is a certain event with uncertain timing meaning the risk is high. But the more we talk about it and learn about what we can do to prepare the more likely we are to minimise its impact.

“We expect the seminar will effectively illustrate this point,” Mr Estall says.


ENDS

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