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CDERA participating states monitor swine flu and review pandemic arrangements

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Bridgetown, Barbados, April 28, 2009 (CDERA) - The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency has been monitoring closely the swine influenza outbreak and precautionary measures being undertaken by governments in CDERA 16 Participating States. The regional leadership in this area is being provided by Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) who are in direct contact with the ministries of health officials. They have been providing guidance on contingency measures and these include giving attention to the non- pharmaceutical interventions such as the review of their pandemic preparedness plans, public information, social distancing arrangements and triggering points through their National Disaster Management Systems. PAHO has also provided countries with guidelines for case definition, the use of antiviral drugs, and the preparation and shipment of specimens for laboratory testing. CAREC has iisued specific guidelines for collection and shipment to its laboratory.

Today, National Disaster Offices participated in teleconferences hosted by PAHO for Latin American and Caribbean Ministers of Health and National Disaster Coordinators which provided opportunities for the exchange of information and questions on the swine flu situation. The World Health Organization (WHO) has moved the Pandemic Alert from Level 3 to Level 4. There have been confirmed cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) in seven countries - Mexico, USA, Canada, Spain, Israel, Scotland and New Zealand and reports of suspected cases in several other countries. PAHO/WHO has not recommended any travel restrictions.

To date, CAREC has reported that there have been no confirmed cases of swine flu in any of the CDERA Participating States , and two countries have indicated that they will be sending specimens (to CAREC) from possible suspected cases.

The CDERA Coordinator, Jeremy Collymore said, "the swine flu outbreak has presented an opportunity for the Caribbean region to review its plans and procedures for pandemic. The CDERA Participating States are presently at varying stages in the process of reviewing their pandemic plans and related resources. These include contingencies for strengthening surveillance mechanisms as may be required"

This hazard (pandemic) was the focus of a communications and table top exercise conducted recently as part of the Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias (FAHUM) exercise coordinated in the Caribbean by CDERA and funded by the United States Southern Command (US SOUTHCOM). The exercise was pursued in the context of the Caribbean's overall disaster risk management strategy - Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) which considers all hazards.

"This timely intervention has been instrumental in heightening the level of awareness and sensitization for a hazard (pandemic) not traditionally common in the Caribbean," Collymore said.

CDERA will continue to monitor the swine influenza situation as the region remains in an increased readiness mode.

The Websites below can provide you with updates and details on the swine influenza situation

Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC)

Pan American Health Organisation

World Health Organisation