Government of the Federated States of Micronesia

FSM National Taskforce on Influenza A (H1N1) Recommends Cancelling Airport Screening

Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services): June 5, 2009 - In a letter to President Mori, the President's H1N1 National Taskforce has given a recommendation to cancel airport screenings for passengers who may be infected with the H1N1 Influenza A virus. The Taskforce has based their recommendation on "evidence from other countries, the experience of FSM public health staff, and the science of H1N1," as stated in the letter.

The letter further stated that despite good intentions, the current passengers screening for H1N1 at points of entry (particularly airports) that the FSM States are currently doing has become a burden on the public health resources for some of the states. For example, multiple staff members have been diverted from their usual program duties (tuberculosis, diabetes, maternal and child health, etc.) in order to conduct daily airports screening activities. As the number of H1N1-affected areas increases, so does the number of passengers undergoing individual screening.

At the same time, it has long been recognized that passenger screening CANNOT prevent the introduction of the H1N1 to our country. This has been emphasized repeatedly by international agencies, particularly the World Health. It has also been demonstrated by the fact that Japan, despite conducting temperature screening on every single arriving passenger, has acquired the greatest number of cases of any Asia-Pacific country. At best it will detect a small number of symptomatic cases, while most cases go undetected (because they are still in the incubation period). In the Southeast-Asia region, of 1.7 million passengers passing through checkpoints, only 3 patients with H1N1 have been picked up through passenger screening.

Based on the above mentioned examples and based on the latest information and sciences of H1N1 available, it is recommended that the current active passenger screening for H1NI at the points of entry be discontinued, unless surplus resources are clearly available. It is far more important that limited resources be channeled toward hospital preparedness, good surveillance for influenza-like-illness, and public education.

While President Mori endorses the H1N1 National Taskforce's recommendation and supports the plan to focus more on hospital and other public health countermeasures instead, he has also asked the taskforce to continue monitoring what is going on in our neighboring islands, especially Guam and Hawaii, and periodically review if additional actions are necessary.

For further information on this release, please contact:

FSM Office of the President
Public Information: Press, Radio, Video
P.O Box 34
Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel.: (691) 320-2548/2092
Fax.: (691) 320-4356