Aviation sector being assessed on outbreak response

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Johannesburg - South Africa's aviation sector is currently being evaluated for its capability to handle any possible outbreak of communicable diseases.

The week-long evaluation entails an assessment of documentation such as regulations and, emergency response plans by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and various other stakeholders.

These plans and documents will further be tested during a simulation exercise at OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airports.

Chief of ICAO's Aviation Medicine Section, Dr Anthony Evans, said the simulation exercise was important to test what had already been put on paper. It was also a learning process that would enable them to identify gaps and make room for improvement.

"We are here to look at South Africa's preparedness plan and see how it works out when put into practice," Dr Evans said on Wednesday.

He said South Africa also had an important role to play in helping prepare other countries in Africa for possible outbreaks of disease.

The ICAO has been actively engaging various states and organisations such as the World Health Organisation, the International Air Transport Association, the Airports Council International and the Centre for Disease Control in an effort to develop and implement an emergency response plans.

Dr Teressa Bassey, who is the Head Aero Medical Standard at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, said Nigeria was in a position to respond well to an outbreak of the H1N1 flu because they had conducted a similar evaluation exercise in Lagos Airport earlier in the year.

"It would have been difficult if we didn't have this evaluation when the H1N1 came, it was very useful because we were working together, we are here to learn from each other," Dr Bassey said.

The exercise, which started on Monday will end on Friday.