Thu, Nov 25, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan keeping vigilant against bird flu

EPIDEMIC After more than 200 infected chickens were culled in Malaysia earlier this week, officials said Taiwan's control measures have kept the disease at bay

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Taiwan will keep up its bird-flu prevention and control measures, especially after another case was discovered in Malaysia this week, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said yesterday.

According to the council's Bureau of Animal and Plant Inspection and Quarantine, Malaysian authorities on Tuesday confirmed that bird flu was discovered in chickens in its northern Kelantan state.

The Malaysian government was due to declare the country free of avian influenza this month, as it has been more than 21 days since the last case of the virus was detected in the country on Oct. 10.

Following the recent find, more than 200 chickens from a village in Malaysia's Kelantan state have been culled, and veterinary officers have been placed to monitor the situation.

COA officials said yesterday that, although the deadly virus is still spreading in several neighboring countries, no case has been reported in Taiwan.

"Undoubtedly, Taiwan's bird flu prevention and control measures will continue. Customs officers and coast guard personnel, especially, will crack down on smuggling to prevent the virus from entering the country," said Tu Wen-jane (杜文珍), a division chief at the bureau.

Officials said that the public should be aware that smuggling of animals and birds from affected countries might jeopardize epidemic prevention efforts here.

Since early this year, the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu virus has led to the slaughter of more than 100 million birds in affected Asian countries, including Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. So far, the virus has killed 32 people in Thailand and Vietnam.

COA officials said that Taiwan is fully aware of the necessity of collaborating with neighboring countries to combat the spread of the disease, and Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) special envoy to the recent APEC meeting, delivered this message at the summit.

According to reports from the Central News Agency, Lee initiated a collaborative project to curb the bird flu epidemic, which is expected to continue to jeopardize public health next year. The government will reportedly invest US$20 million in research and the development of vaccines.

However, officials said Taiwan's sincerity in preventing the spread of the disease has not been fully recognized. Agricultural and health officials told the Taipei Times yesterday that they had not been invited to a ministerial-level meeting on bird flu prevention and control to be held today and tomorrow in Thailand.

The regional conference to assess how best to stem the spread of the virus was planned early last month, when ministers from 10 Southeast Asian nations agreed to form a taskforce to help coordinate bird-flu prevention efforts. The decision was triggered by the confirmation of Thailand's first probable case of human-to-human infection of bird flu in late September, according to a wire-agency report last month.

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