Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

NZ airports not screening China travellers for bird flu

Airports in New Zealand will not be stepping up health checks for travellers from China despite the rise of confirmed H7N9 bird flu cases there.

The number infected has reached over 60, with at least 13 fatalities and the outbreak has led to several countries issuing travel advise for people visiting China.

Ministry of Health spokesman Kevin McCarthy said screening at airports here was not under consideration because the World Health Organisation considered the risk of international spread of the Avian Flu to be low.

The organisation has not recommended any travel restrictions against China as yet, but was monitoring the situation closely.

"This will be reviewed if the situation change," Mr McCarthy said.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said New Zealand's health system was "ready to respond" to any increased risk of bird flu.

"New Zealand has a pandemic plan which can be activated quickly if needed," he said.
"It is a whole-of-government plan with the Ministry of Health as the co-ordinating agency."

The ESR National Influenza Centre in Wellington is able to test for the flu, but no cases have yet been identified here.

"The WHO is working closely with Chinese authorities in their intensive surveillance and response to a number of cases where humans have contracted Avian Influenza."

Mr Ryall said there was currently no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, although travellers have been advised to limit travels to China.

Updates are available on health.govt.nz/avian-influenza and safetravel.govt.nz

Meanwhile, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel warning, and its website lists symptoms of the infection to include cough, fever and shortness of breath.

Other potential symptoms are respiratory problems and severe pneumonia.

Hong Kong has activated an "alert response level" and Japan's airports have put up posters warning passengers from China to seek medical help if they have these symptoms.

In Singapore, Changi Airport told airlines about plans to issue health leaflets to all travellers arriving from China and the Middle East, the Straits Times reported.

Airports in Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan are also on alert against H797.

- NZ Herald

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