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Airport arrivals screening during pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza in New South Wales, Australia

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During the DELAY and CONTAIN phases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza, New South Wales Health conducted, at the request of the Australian Government, screening of passengers at Sydney Airport. The aim was to delay entry and minimise spread of the pandemic in Australia.1,2 In this study, we examined the effectiveness of this intervention, in order to inform its future use at the state and national level.

On 27 April 2009, two clinics were established at Sydney Airport, staffed by nurses from the local area health service, with public health support from the NSW Ministry of Health. On-board announcements were made before landing, and all incoming international passengers were asked to declare any symptoms or possible contact with a person with influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 by completing a health declaration card. Additionally, thermal imaging scanners with a set point of 38°C ± 2°C were used to detect febrile passengers.3,4

Public health staff triaged and assessed passengers who self-reported symptoms or were detected by thermal scanners according to the case definition current at the time (Box 1). Passengers who met the case definition answered a questionnaire, underwent a brief clinical assessment and had…