View Full Version : Bird flu may see NZ close borders

09-22-2005, 02:44 PM
-NZ is Island-your never far from the sea-

Bird flu may see NZ close borders
23 September 2005

New Zealand may lock down all air and sea ports if a lethal bird flu epidemic takes hold internationally, potentially turning planes around and putting all arrivals into quarantine.

The disease has killed more than 50 people, but it has not yet learned to rapidly transmit between humans.

In late October, New Zealand border agencies would look at the logistics of stopping all people and imports, such as food and medicine, from entering the country in the event of a pandemic, Customs business development unit manager John Ladd said yesterday.

Enormous problems would accompany such a move, he said.

"What do you do when you have got a whole lot of people in quarantine? Are there legislative processes available to stop New Zealanders coming into the country?"

The agencies would have to consider whether it was reasonable to direct planes in mid-air not to land in New Zealand.

People may need to be quarantined for as long as eight days if New Zealand hoped to stop the outbreak spreading while keeping its borders open, Ladd said. "How do we feed all these people?"

Even closed borders or quarantines might not stop the deadly flu from spreading to New Zealand.

"It's quite possible it will come into the country before we even know there's an outbreak," he said.

Customs officials will visit Christchurch next Wednesday to discuss a plan of action with airport staff.

This week, Indonesian officials battled to contain the threat of an epidemic that was prompting reports of widespread panic.

Two girls who died in Jakarta are thought to have contracted the deadly H5N1 strain, while several patients in Jakarta hospitals are showing symptoms of the disease.

Christchurch microbiologist Ben Harris said New Zealand borders might need to be closed for many months to allow the pandemic to run its course.

"To do that, all those people overseas on holiday would not be allowed in either. It sounds a good idea, but I would find it interesting to see whether it could ever be done," he said.

Protective gear such as masks would not be 100 per cent effective against the deadly strain if it became as contagious as conventional influenza, Harris said.

"It may never come. It may come mildly or it may be like a blast from hell. Personally, I'm very concerned. It makes one look at one's values in life," he said.

Bird flu kills one in two victims.

In Canterbury, Civil Defence will begin stockpiling protective gear as health authorities and emergency services crank up efforts to manage an outbreak.

Health authorities met emergency services this week to discuss how they would co-ordinate efforts if the region were hit by bird flu.

Canterbury District Health Board chief medical officer Nigel Millar said local authorities had discussed various strategies, such as limiting social gatherings, to restrict the spread of the disease.

Staff would have to think about whether it was safe to go home to their families at the end of a working day.

"The key thing is to manage processes so health workers are protected if we want them to front up and see people," he said.

Health Ministry acting director of public health Ashley Bloomfield said the ministry would release advice today about whether people travelling to or living in Asian countries should obtain antivirals or use other treatment options to prepare for an outbreak.

"The ministry and other government agencies are taking the potential pandemic influenza threat very seriously. There were three influenza pandemics last century and it is certain there will be another one. What we don't know is when this will happen," he said.

Bloomfield said the ministry employed 26 part and full-time staff on pandemic planning projects.

09-22-2005, 02:47 PM
I suggested two months ago that the U.S. do the very same thing NOW!

Before its too late, which it already is.