Fri, Jan 12, 2018 - Page 8 News List

More proactive flu strategy needed

By Su Ih-jen 蘇益仁

Unfortunately, the council only dealt with the issue by implementing a project and saying that the advice would be evaluated.

Flu epidemics in Taiwan are special in that the specific virus strain of the seasonal flu in Taiwan is identified two years before the virus strain selected by the WHO for manufacturing vaccines. The WHO selection is based on European and American virus strains, so as much as 40 percent of WHO-recommended vaccines are “wrongly predicted,” as the virus targeted by the vaccine does not match the dominant virus that is circulating in Taiwan.

Adding influenza virus strains from Southeast Asia into the consideration when making vaccines has been continuously proposed to the WHO for 10 years, but always comes to no avail. It is time that Southeast Asian countries establish their own database of virus strains, share research findings and collaboratively develop flu vaccines targeted at a virus strain different from the one selected by the WHO.

The government should follow the example of Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases and establish a central epidemic prevention and research center to designate preventive measures and conduct influenza research, so as to be able to react effectively to virus mutations and the threat of bird flu.

In preparation for a possible flu outbreak in the spring, the government should assess their inventory and evaluate the administration of the quadrivalent flu vaccine.

The prevention of epidemic disease is a war against the virus, and we need to be a step ahead of the enemy in order to win.

Su Ih-jen is a distinguished professor in the Department of Biotechnology at Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology.

Translated by Chang Ho-ming

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