Advice for the public on how to protect themselves against the deadly avian flu virus was discussed and publicized yesterday in a joint press conference held by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Council of Agriculture (COA).
In response to public safety concerns, DOH Deputy Director-General Lin Ting (林頂) reiterated the advice that public hygiene should be observed, and that people should try to avoid going to areas that have been affected by avian flu.
He also advised that people "shouldn't buy strange imported birds from supermarkets" and that all poultry and eggs should be cooked properly.
Furthermore, Lin advised those below two years of age, those aged over 65, and those in contact with poultry to get vaccinated to prevent the normal flu virus from mixing with the avian flu, therefore allowing health experts easier differentiation between normal flu and avian flu symptoms.
Lin further assured the public that Taiwan was an `avian flu free area' and that there was no need to panic.
"We have infra-red monitor points at all international ports of entry which can detect any sign of flu symptoms," Lin said.
Meanwhile, Coast Guard Administration official Li Hao (李皓) said at the press conference that they are toying with the idea of increasing the penalties for smuggling from three years to seven years and that checks would be made on every ship within their jurisdiction.
In response to whether a coast guard official involved in the initial checking of smuggled birds from China, now confirmed to be infected with the H5N1 virus wore protective clothing, Lee reiterated that officials were required to wear protective clothing covering all parts of the body, including gloves and protective footware.
In related news, Chinese National Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Li-hung(楊麗環) yesterday questioned whether all the emphasis that has been placed on acquiring enough Tamiflu of late has detracted from other measures needed to ward off the deadly avian influenza threat.
"In France and Vietnam, they have already formed their populations into volunteer groups in preparation for an avian flu crisis," Yang said at a separate press conference yesterday.
The Department of Public Health National College of Medicine at Cheng Kung University, Chen Mei-hsia (陳美霞), emphasized the importance of educating the public about avian flu, pointing to survey results done by the DOH which showed that less than 50 percent of the public are aware of what measures to take.
"The government should make use of community colleges to spread the word about avian flu. It is important that the public is aware of what should be done and that the information is internalized," she said.
National Health Research Institute Director Su Yi-jen (蘇益仁) assured the public that Taiwan is using all resources possible to strengthen its defenses. The head of the DOH Hou Sheng-mao (侯茂雄) yesterday said that if Roche refuses to give Taipei a license to make Tamiflu, Taipei will go ahead with the production anyway because Taiwanese law stipulates that protecting human life is more important than patent protection.