Wed, Aug 31, 2005 - Page 2 News List

City and central health officials move on bird flu

JOINT EFFORT Those concerned by reports that millions of Taiwanese will be infected in the next bird-flu outbreak might breathe easier at the news

BY MO YAN-CHIH  /  STAFF REPORTER

As part of preparations against an avian-flu outbreak, Taipei City's Department of Health and Economic Development, together with the National Institute of Animal Health, unveiled strategies yesterday -- including vaccine preparation and comprehensive inspection of domestic birds -- for bringing any emergency under control.

"In a joint effort with the central government, we established three strategic areas -- vaccinations, anti-virus medicines and transmission-prevention -- to fight the avian flu if it arrives," the department said yesterday in a statement.

The department said that it has already offered free flu shots to the elderly, children between six months and two years of age and workers in the poultry industry, so that if bird-flu takes hold, doctors won't mistake the disease for normal flu.

The department has also purchased 500 boxes of Tamiflu, an anti-influenza drug believed to be effective in treating avian flu. The drugs are being stored at Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital.

The city government's Department of Economic Development said that it will help the poultry industry with more thorough precautionary measures. These include asking farms to clean and sterilize poultry cages before use, and to ensure that poultry is buried or burned if affected by the virus.

Meanwhile, the city's Markets Administration Office will monitor all poultry markets and require that the markets keep records of poultry volume and places of origin.

Last week, the central government's Department of Health warned that, based on US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecasts, an outbreak of avian flu in Taiwan between January and March next year could sicken 5.3 million Taiwanese, of which 70,000 would be hospitalized and 14,000 would die.

Department of Health Minister Hou Sheng-mou (侯勝茂) said that if the outbreak does take place, the death toll could approach that of the "Spanish flu" epidemic of 1918. There were 3 million people in Taiwan at that time, and 25,000 died from the disease.

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