How Australia can assist its South Pacific neighbours with mitigating measures to manage existing outbreak and prevent future ones Essay Example

How Australia can assist its South Pacific neighbours with mitigating measures to manage existing outbreak and prevent future ones

How Australia can assist its South Pacific neighbours with mitigating measures to manage existing outbreak and prevent future ones

Introduction

Pandemic diseases still remain a big problem in Pacific countries as they claim several lives. Healthy bodies have become concerned about the region and have claimed that, if no stringent measures are taken, 14 of the South Pacific countries could experience occurrences of even more pandemic diseases. It is becoming difficult without the help of developed nations to deal with these pandemic diseases because most countries in this region are still developing and lacks preparedness. Faye stated that, it is only Australia that is well-prepared to deal with pandemic diseases such Zika virus and Ebola outbreak among others for next to ten years due to its economic, political and social stability.1 Therefore, most of these countries look up to Australia for help and refers it to ‘Near Abroad’ due to its sphere of influence. Gatherer and Kohl claimed that pandemic diseases in the neighboring countries like New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Indonesia and Vanuatu have the possibility of spilling into Australia because of movements.2

This essay will argue that Australia need to assist its South Pacific neighbours with mitigating measures to manage existing outbreak and prevent future ones. The essay will use the emerging Zika virus outbreak to address this issue. Furthermore, the essay will argue that Australia is well-prepared for a major pandemic in the next ten years; however its neighbouring countries are not. Therefore, it would be wise for Australia to assist its South Pacific neighbours with mitigating measures to manage existing outbreak and prevent future ones.

Overview of Zika virus

Ioos et al. posited that the Zika virus is considered to belong to the virus genus Flavivirus and family Flaviviridae and its spread by the Aedes mosquitoes like A. albopictus and A. aegypti which are active at day time.3 The name Zika is associated with Zike Forest in Uganda, where it was first discovered in 1947. The Zika virus result into an infection called Zika fever and has only mild or no symptoms. From 1950, Zika Virus has been believed to occur within Africa and Asia. The virus spread to south pacific and pacific regions later on. Kraemer claimed that Island of Yap was the first to report a Zika virus outbreak in 2007 where 7500 inhabitants were affected.4 Although 73 percent infection was later reported, there were no hospitalization and fatal incidences. The Island of Yap case was the first out of Asia and Africa. However, in 2014, the disease spread to French Polynesia. Kraemer claimed that it became the second outbreak in the south pacific region and the largest as 28,000 inhabitants were affected.5 Afterwards, Zika virus spread to Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Eastern Island, Solomon and Fiji and is still flowing across South Pacific countries in 2016. Analysis of the origins of what is now apparent as a pandemic of Zika virus has been largely retrospective, based on sequencing of isolates collected across Africa and South-east Asia during the course of the 20th century.6 Major symptoms detected in Micronesia outbreak in 2007 included fever, rash, conjunctivitis and arthralgia and conjunctivitis while minority consisted of vomiting, headache and oedema. Oehler contended that the examination of the Guillain — Barré syndrome in Zika situations within Polynesia shown a growth in clinical severity.7 However, due to its mild symptoms, limited Zika Virus diagnostic capability and overlapping features of Chikungunya and dengue in the South Pacific, there is a possibility that there are cases of undetected Zika Virus transmission within other countries of the South Pacific. The study at clinical complications emphasizes on the need to support scrutiny for the Zika emerging virus. Experts also argue that in case of Zika Virus outbreak, strict clinical monitoring needs to be established to identify strange clinical manifestations. Oehler virus is often transmitted through the infected female mosquitoes bite. Other than mosquitos’ bites, the virus can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions and via perinatal transmission between mother and the foetus during delivery. These other means are called non-vector transmission. The US-CDC came up with detective algorithms for the Zika Virus in both the adults and children. According to US-CDC the diagnosis can be done by using (RT-PCR) of the viral genome.8

How Australia can assist its South Pacific neighbours with mitigating measures to manage existing outbreak and prevent future ones.

Australia recognizes that national security in the globalized world is of great importance as countries are facing several threats encompassing their national borders. Australia has been fast to understand that pandemic like Zika have a severe threat to its population and could aggravate social fragmentation, weaken national confidence and interrupt trade and business. In fact, Stawicki & Papadimos claimed that the Government of Australia projected that Zika Virus pandemic might lead to 2.9 million infections and 13000 deaths in the country.9 The health ministry also claimed that such level of infections could overpower the Australian health system and interrupt the economic and development activities hence the need for mitigation measures. Duffy stated that offering protection is considered crucial so as to make sure the workforce like the doctors, nurses, police, electricity and water employees and airport staff come to their place of work and operate vital infrastructure.10Within South Pacific, it is only Australia which has prepared for a pandemic like Zika Virus in the next ten years due to its economic, political and social stability. Australia is regarded as a developed and a wealthy country. Based on average wealth, the country is ranked 2nd after Switzerland; meaning its people are capable of paying for health care. With rich resources and sound leadership, Australia is prepared to help its neighbors mitigate Zika virus with concepts such as disease surveillance, reducing traveling activities, disaster planning, Zika virus pandemic plan and hospital preparedness.

A combination between national security and health department has created a good rapport to achieve surveillance objectives which entail ongoing scrutiny of every pattern of the Zika Virus occurrence and transmission of disease for effective control.11 The collaboration involves laboratory tests, timely reporting and capacity to examine and interpret the data. Boarder Surveillance is a good step in the preparedness of Australia. The border surveillance has been effective even during the times of the SARS outbreak. Professionals claim that Australia has been very introspective with its pandemic prevention in the South Pacific region. The situation has been partially attributed to the fact that new or re-emerging pandemic threats and also because numerous South Pacific neighbours require more assistance in terms of disease prevention systems. One expert even argued that, just the way Australia has been very proactive in protecting its neighbours such as Nauru and PNG from the economic and political collapse, it should also assume a greater role for Zika pandemic preparedness with the South Pacific. Australia can help its neighbours by setting up both internal and external surveillance.12

External surveillance does not mean all border lines, but even at entry points. Australia can send its experts and resources such as identification machines to help its neighbours secure entry points. Protection of borders is regarded as the initial line of defending a country from external threat. Its neighbours are already experiencing Zika pandemic hence protecting their borders will prevent more cases of transmission.13 Australia government in collaboration with its neighbor’s administrations can use surveillance systems to identify every foreigner and even locals coming and have them checked at entry points such as borders and airports. Australia can also help French Polynesia, Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Eastern Island, Solomon and Fiji set up laboratories and employ experts to test for Zika and other pandemic at the entry points to ensure cases of diseases are reduced. Similarly, Australia immigration department is highly advanced in terms of technology and expertise; the same can be replicated at its neighboring countries to check on validity of immigrants and travellers passports. The process ensures people coming from Zika prone countries do not increase the transmission of the disease. Surveillance does not end at the border and should be done within the country.

Internal Surveillance normally entails spotting a pandemic within a country and responding to it. However, the process is carried out by a special body bestowed with such responsibility. While Australia has people to conduct internal surveillance, its neighbors do not have expertise and are exposed to pandemic like Zika. Most health experts currently consider that Australia’s surveillance networks and systems are adequately robust to handle routine and emerging contagious diseases like Zika because of a blend of aspects. Hayes argued that such factors are called rumor surveillance and is described as informal individual networks where present information is sent between experts. Such networks often strengthens daily function of the general system. These networks create the platform of the decentralized assistance in which Australia can help its neighbours without seeking resources and advice of the Commonwealth or even working as co-coordinator or mediator. The internal surveillance can be conducted by a body set in Australia and since it is independent from health bodies in these countries, effectiveness can highly be achieved. Australia has continued to run a successful internal surveillance for infectious disease since 1990 through bodies like National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System,
National Influenza Surveillance Scheme and Public Health Laboratory Network. This is an indication that its support for such bodies in its neighboring countries could help in mitigating Zika Virus.14

Apart from surveillance, Australia can support the country through aid and funds to uplift their economic and political status. This practice normally is more of long term goal than any other. The aid provided by a country can used in education, healthcare or just empowerment. Unless the Australia aid or fund its neighbours for capacity building and long-term skills development, they will persistently undergo significant challenges such as putting appropriate measure to deal with infectious diseases.15 Providing funds for education has a major impact on development and manpower. Education enable individuals to take part in economic, political and social issues affecting the society such as Zika and come up with ways to solve it. Australia neighbours have a poor education system which cannot provide technical, tertiary and vocational skills which are sometimes needed for creating disease reduction measures. Through aids, students can pursue careers in healthcare, which can help them diagnose infectious diseases and create a preparedness programs for their countries. Australia is known for sound leadership which has led to implementation of effective healthcare policies. Other countries in the region are lagging behind in terms of leadership and better policies, hence the need for Australia to show its support and leadership in the South Pacific. Political, transformative and technical leadership are highly critical to success of economy and development. Building a good relationship with leadership from neighboring countries can assist in promoting growth of institutions especially in developing nations.16

Further, Australia public health department can take responsibility by enlightening citizens of the neighbouring countries on how to mitigate Zika virus. In the process, they can provide repellant, mosquito nets and long sleeved shirts which normally protect from mosquito bites. Travelers ought to be trained on safe drinking and eating habits like using bottled water as opposed to tap water, ensuring that seafood and meat and fully cooked, and staying away from raw vegetables and unpeeled fruits, keeping away from a situation where skin comes into contact with the sand to protect from worm infections and wearing proper footwear.17

Experts also believe that since Zika Virus can be transmitted through sex. Australia can helps its neighbours by offering sex education as a way to prevent sexually transmitted illness and application of condoms is essential. Sending a group of experts to Zika susceptible countries such French Polynesia, Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Eastern Island, Solomon and Fiji would ensure Australia has safe neighbours in terms of health and this will also decrease exposure to spread of disease. Education provided by healthcare experts should include hygiene and safety topics. The citizens of these countries should be informed that Zika Virus is normally carried in the blood and its infection prevention precaution needs to consist of safe disposal of body fluids and sharp objects when a patient is admitted at the hospital, wearing gloves, impermeable apron and maintaining hand hygiene. It is also good practice for people to clean and sterilize medical devices that cannot be disposed after every patient’s utilization.

As stated earlier, traveling across the countries has increased tremendously in the 21st century due to increased globalization, business and leisure activities. Most Australia neighbours are islands which have scenic views and attract visitors from different countries. Some of the tourists come from Zika prone areas and while visiting, they make direct contact with their hosts leading to transmission of the fever. While most south pacific nations have not be able to implement travel restrictions even the Zika Virus reports soars in the region, Australia has a strict travel policy which has enabled it to protect its citizens from external threats such as the diseases.18 Helping its neighbours through issuing and implementing travel restriction for some period of time is highly recommendable. The practice will enable the country to deal with cases at hand and also come up with ways to deal with future outbreaks. Australia can also help its South Pacific neighbours by setting laboratories for tests at entry points before allowing visitors to mingle with the host citizens. This is a long term solution which will reduce transmission or pandemic diseases even in future. Another way is by dictating that citizens entering South Pacific countries must show test results from their countries showing that they are free from Zika Virus.

Australia has more expertise on healthcare compared to its neighbours. Therefore, they can help them draw a contingency plan to reduce exposure and spread of pandemic. The capability of developing countries especially in the South Pacific to handle sudden increase of Zika Virus causality has been highly cast in doubt due to lack of facilities.19 On the other hand, Australia has put up contingency plans and is on alert to fight pandemic for the next ten years. The contingency plans include having fully equipped wards and having special wards for pandemic among other plans. Faye et al. claimed that due to its capability, Australia can help its neighbour build highly equipped hospitals and train local doctors to conduct test on various infections.20 Providing resource and technical know-how is a good practice which will see South Pacific countries continue to reduce pandemic in years to come.

Conclusion

From research, it is obvious that apart from Australia, other South Pacific countries lack capacity to fight emerging pandemic like Zika Virus. These countries are still developing and cannot provide national security protection against diseases to its people. The research has also established that French Polynesia, Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Eastern Island, Solomon and Fiji have poor education, poor social amenities and poor leadership making them vulnerable to pandemic. In fact, Zika has been on the rise in the region since it was first reported in 2007 in Island of Yap. Australia being a well prepared neighbour and a stable country based on economy and political factors, the essay found it necessary for Australia to assist its South Pacific neighbours with mitigating measures to manage existing outbreak and prevent future ones. The conclusion is based on the fact Australia can be at risk of Zika Virus when its neighbours experiences such pandemic because of traveling and business activities.

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A.A, Sall, B, Bird, Molecular Evolution of Zika Virus during Its Emergence in the 20th Century. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases Vol.8, 2014, pp.27

2D, Gatherer & A, Kohl, Zika virus: a previously slow pandemic spreads rapidly through the

Americas. Journal of General Virology, Vol. 2015, pp. 35

3
S, Ioos, H.P, Mallet, G.I, Leparc, ,V, Gauthier & , T, Cardoso. Current Zika virus epidemiology

and recent epidemics. Med Mal Infect, Vol.44, 2014, pp. 305

4
M.U.G, Kraemer, M.E, Sinka, , K.A, Duda, A.Q.N, Mylne, F.M, Shearer, , C.M, Barker, C.G, Moore, R.G, Carvalho, G.E, Coelho, The global distribution of the arbovirus vectors Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus«. ELife Vol. 4, 2015, pp.89

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D, Musso & T, Nhan, Emergence of Zika Virus.
Musso and Nhan, Clin Microbiol, Vol. 2015,

7
E, Oehler, L, Watri, P, Larre, I, Leparc-Goffart I, S, Lastere, Zika virus infection complicated

by Guillain-Barre syndrome-case report, French Polynesia. Euro Surveill, 2014

8
T,
Various, «Etymologia: Zika Virus», Emerging Infectious Diseases Vol.20, 2014, pp.1094

9
S.P, Stawicki & T.J, Papadimos, The emergence of Zika virus as a global health security threat:

A review and a consensus statement of the INDUSEM Joint working Group (JWG). Journal of Global Infectious Diseases Vol.8, 2016, pp. 5

10
M.R, Duffy, T.H, Chen, W.T, Hancock, A.M, Powers, J.L, Kool, R.S, Lanciotti, M, Pretrick,

M, Marfel, S, Holzbauer, C, Dubray, L, Guillaumot, A, Griggs, M, Bel, A.J, Lambert, J, Laven, O, Kosoy, A, Panella, B.J, Biggerstaff, M, Fischer & E.B, Hayes. Zika Virus Outbreak on Yap Island, Federated States of Micronesia. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol.360, 2009, pp.2536–43

11
A.s, Fauci & D.M, Morens, «Zika Virus in the Americas – Yet Another Arbovirus Threat». New England Journal of Medicine, Vol.374, 2016, pp.55

12
E. B, Hayes, Zika Virus outside Africa». Emerging Infectious Diseases Vol.15, 2009, pp.1348

13
M.U.G, Kraemer, M.E, Sinka, , K.A, Duda, A.Q.N, Mylne, F.M, Shearer, , C.M, Barker, C.G, Moore, R.G, Carvalho, G.E, Coelho, The global distribution of the arbovirus vectors Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus«. ELife Vol. 4, 2015, pp.90

14
E, Oehler, L, Watri, P, Larre, I, Leparc-Goffart I, S, Lastere, Zika virus infection complicated

by Guillain-Barre syndrome-case report, French Polynesia. Euro Surveill, 2014

15
Ioos, H.P, Mallet, G.I, Leparc, ,V, Gauthier & , T, Cardoso. Current Zika virus epidemiology

and recent epidemics. Med Mal Infect, Vol.44, 2014, pp. 306

16
E, Oehler, L, Watri, P, Larre, I, Leparc-Goffart I, S, Lastere, Zika virus infection complicated

by Guillain-Barre syndrome-case report, French Polynesia. Euro Surveill, 2014

17
M.R, Duffy, T.H, Chen, W.T, Hancock, A.M, Powers, J.L, Kool, R.S, Lanciotti, M, Pretrick,

M, Marfel, S, Holzbauer, C, Dubray, L, Guillaumot, A, Griggs, M, Bel, A.J, Lambert, J, Laven, O, Kosoy, A, Panella, B.J, Biggerstaff, M, Fischer & E.B, Hayes. Zika Virus Outbreak on Yap Island, Federated States of Micronesia. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol.360, 2009, pp.2536–43

18
, Gatherer & A, Kohl, Zika virus: a previously slow pandemic spreads rapidly through the

Americas. Journal of General Virology, Vol. 2015, pp. 35

19
A.s, Fauci & D.M, Morens, «Zika Virus in the Americas – Yet Another Arbovirus Threat». New England Journal of Medicine, Vol.374, 2016, pp.57

20
O, Faye, C.C.M, Freire, A, Iamarino, O, Faye, JVC, de Oliveira, M, Diallo, P.M.A, Zanotto,

A.A, Sall, B, Bird, Molecular Evolution of Zika Virus during Its Emergence in the 20th Century. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases Vol.8, 2014, pp.29