24 Mar 2010

SPC advocates joint approach to tackle region's contagious disaeses

2:01 pm on 24 March 2010

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the SPC, says keeping a closer eye on patients showing symptoms of contagious diseases could help Pacific communities report outbreaks earlier to authorities.

Common outbreaks often include dengue, influenza, leptospirosis, typhoid and cholera.

Currently the surveillance of infectious diseases is not uniform across the 22 Pacific Island countries and territories.

The SPC has been working with the World Health Organisation and the Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network to try and streamline the reporting process to be able to respond more quickly.

SPC's communicable disease expert, Dr Justus Benzler, says there would be huge improvements if countries agreed.

"It is a surveillance approach that is not based on diagnosed diseases but based on what we call syndromes, that means combinations of symptoms and signs of a patient which precedes diagnosis. So it is something that's a bit rough, not necessarily very precise, but you have it very early on and we are proposing that we agree about some essential syndromes that every country collects information about just in terms of counting the patients."

Dr Justus Benzler

More than 60 health workers from around the region have gathered in Auckland this week for talks on the proposed early warning system.