Taiwan prepared to fight flu

TAIWAN - Taiwan has been rated as well-prepared to fight a potential flu pandemic that may be caused by the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus, National Science Council Chairman Chen Chien-jen said yesterday.
calendar icon 16 March 2007
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Chen, an epidemiologist-turned-technocrat who concurrently serves as convener of a supraministerial flu prevention task force, made the remarks after presiding over a review meeting a day earlier on various precautionary measures.

According to Chen, the Cabinet-level Department of Health (DOH) invited Dr. Richard Coker, a noted British bird flu expert who is also an adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO), to Taipei earlier this month to evaluate Taiwan's flu prevention mechanism and strategies.

"We get a score of 70 points, higher than the median score of 57 among the 28 countries around the world that Coker has reviewed and assessed," Chen said.

One of the assorted measures that Taiwan has adopted to prevent an invasion of bird flu virus is setting up nets around all pig and poultry farms islandwide to prevent wild birds from passing the flu virus to hogs and poultry, Chen said, adding that nets will have been set up at nearly 85 percent of all farms by the end of this month.

Meanwhile, Chen said feces samples collected from throngs of great cormorants converging on the outlying island, ahead of their return to the north after having wintered in Taiwan, were found not to contain the H5N1 virus, indicating that Taiwan remains an H5N1-free area.

In terms of an evaluation by local health authorities of Taiwan's preparedness against a possible flu pandemic based on WHO-set criteria, Taiwan gets a score of 80 to 85 points, Chen said, adding that Taiwan needs to further study how many volunteers and retirees can be recruited in the event of a flu pandemic and whether government funds will be needed in post-pandemic rehabilitation.

Shih Wen yi, deputy director of the DOH's Center for Disease Control, said a large-scale flu pandemic control drill will be held in the middle of this year, with the participation of public health agencies, private corporations and farming households, to test various response measures and strategies.

Source: The China Post

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