No infections were found during inspections
It was raining when Vietnamese ship My Vuong approached Quay 208 at Tanjung Priok seaport in North Jakarta at around 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon. A yellow flag was at mast.
Shortly after it had docked, several men sporting dark green jumpsuits with “Health Quarantine” written on their backs climbed up the ladder and boarded the ship, which was carrying tons of commodities. They were wearing masks that covered their mouths and noses.
The inspection lasted for around an hour. None of the ship’s crew were allowed to go ashore and no visitors could board the ship before it was clear that both the ship and its crew members were free of infectious disease and other health problems.
Shortly after the yellow flag was lowered, people started to board the large vessel. “It took five days from Vietnam to Indonesia,” said Pham Van Dung, 48, the ship’s chief officer.
The ship had departed from Saigon directly to Jakarta without transit, carrying trade goods, including rice, he said.
During the inspection, the quarantine officers checked not only the health of the crew members but also the cleanliness of the facilities on the ship, including dining utensils and cooking equipment in the kitchen.
The International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 implemented by 194 countries including Indonesia requires all countries to take public health action against the international spread of diseases, but it should avoid unnecessary restriction of trade and travel as well.
A total 14 diseases are considered as Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on the list of IHR 2005’s quarantinable diseases. Four diseases, namely smallpox; poliomyelitis (with wild polio virus agent); human influenza (with new subtype virus agent); and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are on the list as they can lead to a pandemic.
Other diseases that carry major warnings are cholera, the plague, yellow fever, dengue, rift valley fever and meningitis.
“Anticipating those diseases is critical as their virulence is quite high. They may cause not only serious illnesses but even death,” said Azimal, the head of Port Health Authority in Tanjung Priok.
Over the last few years, inspectors have not identified any crew members or passengers as carrying infectious disease during quarantine inspection. The procedure, however, is still enforced.
“Even in the absence of a pandemic, conducting a quarantine inspection remains critical to contain the spread of the disease,” Azimal told The Jakarta Post.
During the inspection, the quarantine inspectors carry out certain medical procedures – including medical examinations and anamnesis or collecting information from individuals suspected of having been in contact with disease, by asking specific questions – each time they found individuals whose temperatures were 38 degree Celcius or above.
In 2011, the Health Quarantine office recorded that it had found 13 individuals suspected of carrying the H1N1 influenza virus. They were then sent to Respiratory Hospital Sulianto Saroso (RSPI). After a string of examinations, however, no positive “swine flu” infections were found. The patients were crew members of cargo ships from Singapore and the Philippines.
“None of the Japanese crew members were contaminated with radiation when we inspected vessels coming from the country during the Fukushima nuclear incident in March last year,” Azimal said.
No infections were found during inspections the authority carried out on German-flag ships shortly after the Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia Coli (EHEC) pandemic emerged last year, he added.
Zulfarmi Syawal, an official with the Tanjung Priok seaport, said that quarantine inspections played a key role in protecting people at home from possible epidemics that might come from arriving ships.
Source: The Jakarda Post