The rapid and widespread entry of the pandemic H1N1 infection that led to a large number of infected cases in Australia suggested a public health management failure in containing the pandemic when it broke out in April 2009.
According to a paper in Respirology published by Wiley-Blackwell, despite the well-intentioned and well-funded public health effort against the pandemic, the primary failure of the prepared public health response was the unanticipated clinical presentation and the high infectivity of virus.
In the study entitled, "Public health Management Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 Infection in Australia -- A Failure!" senior academics, Professor Grant W. Waterer and Professor Christine Jenkins, polarized the issue and debated as to whether the public health response to pandemic H1N1 2009 infection in Australia had failed.
Professor Waterer said, "There is no question that the Australian public health response failed to prevent the H1N1 pandemic from gaining rapid and widespread entry into all areas of Australia. That Australia did not see mass casualties and a complete collapse of the country's health system is attributable to the relatively benign course of the pandemic H1N1 2009 infection, not due to any public health success."
He added, "Failure to contain the pandemic does not represent a failure of government and public health authorities to respond properly, nor that resources were misspent. Many factors such as the asymptomatic properties of the virus, long delays in screening tests, inadequately trained health practitioners as well as problems in communication and coordination combined to overwhelm the ability of the public health response to contain the pandemic."
Supporting the argument that the public health management did not fail, Professor Jenkins recognized the initiatives that were effectively implemented, such as the Australian Health Management Pandemic Planning Initiative, the readiness of public hospitals and the quick response of the National health and Medical Research Centre.
Both authors agreed that clinicians and researchers in Australia are to be commended for their great efforts and achievement in this pandemic in disseminating their clinical knowledge.
- Waterer et al. Public health management of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 infection in Australia: A failure!. Respirology, 2010; 15 (1): 51 DOI: 10.1111/j.1440-1843.2009.01675.x
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