Strengthening foodborne disease surveillance in the Pacific Island region
Written by Christelle Lepers   
Friday, 20 February 2009
ImageFoodborne diseases are a concern in the Pacific Island region, like elsewhere in the world, and surveillance of these diseases must be strengthened across the region.

Next week (from Monday 23 to Friday 27 February), the third regional training course for Global Salmonella Surveillance (GSS) in the Pacific Island region will be organised in Guam to address specifically the North Pacific region.

‘Two courses were organised previously in the South Pacific region, in Fiji Islands in 2006 and Papua New Guinea in 2008,’ says Dr Justus Benzler, Communicable Disease Surveillance Specialist at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

’With these three sub-regional courses, more than 100 microbiology technicians and public health practitioners/epidemiologists from 19 Pacific Island countries and territories* will have equipped themselves with the knowledge and skills to detect different types of Salmonella organisms (which can be the cause of foodborne diseases) and to investigate and better control outbreaks of foodborne diseases, in particular those of typhoid fever.’  

These courses are unique in that they were specifically designed to address the typhoid fever problems that have been occurring in some Pacific Islands (Papua New Guinea, Fiji Islands, Samoa, Nauru, Tonga, Marshall Islands and Vanuatu).

Originally, the GSS programme was created by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2000 to strengthen the capacities of its member states in the surveillance and control of major foodborne diseases and to contribute to the global effort of containment of antimicrobial resistance in foodborne pathogens. To date this programme has held over 50 international training courses in Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian for more than 1000 microbiologists and epidemiologists from over 120 countries.

This third Pacific Islands training is being organised by SPC in collaboration with the Pacific Island Health Officers Association (PIHOA), WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (WHO Global Salmonella Surveillance team), OzFoodNet and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research of New Zealand. It is mainly funded through the Pacific Regional Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Project coordinated by SPC and financed by AusAID and NZAID.

For more information, please contact:
Dr Justus Benzler, SPC Communicable Disease Surveillance Specialist (Mobile in Guam: 671-687-5196); or Christelle Lepers, SPC Surveillance Information Officer (Tel.: 687 26 21 81 – Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ).



*American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Last Updated ( Friday, 20 February 2009 )