Mon, Dec 26, 2005 - Page 2 News List

EPA implements bird flu measures

HEALTH DEFENSE The environmental agency has held training sessions aimed at protecting staff and making them more aware of what to do in case of an outbreak

By Jenny Chou  /  STAFF REPORTER

In an effort to step up defenses against bird flu, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has implemented measures to regulate staff and to provide training for them throughout the country.

The bird flu virus, which has swept its way through parts of Europe and Southeast Asia in recent months, has led to mass cullings and left affected bird farms desolate.

With human cases of bird flu being discovered in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and China, and a mortality rate of approximately 50 percent, EPA officials said that even though Taiwan is still a bird flu-free zone, the nation's defenses need to be strengthened.

This is especially true in view of the increasing numbers of migratory birds which will be passing through this area in the next few months.

The head of the EPA's division of environment sanitation and toxic substance management, Liu Ruei-hsiang (劉瑞祥), said, "Defenses against bird flu need to be as far as possible a joint effort by all governmental bodies."

Up until now, Taiwan has taken the work of defending against bird flu seriously, stockpiling Tamiflu as well as ingredients to produce Tamiflu, requesting "coercive authorization" to produce Tamiflu, tightening up defenses against bird smuggling, providing funds for farmers to put up wire fencing, increasing sampling of migratory birds for the HN virus family, holding conferences to increase the flow of information and holding large-scale drills.

Alerting the public about safety precautions has also been a top priority, with booklets and leaflets being produced by the DOH, information lines established and notices being put up accross major parks in Taipei. The Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) has also translated information booklets on bird flu into English, Vietnamese, Thai and Indonesian.

Asked how regulating staff actions could prevent the spread of bird flu, Liu said, "In the event that there are human cases of bird flu in Taiwan, discarded materials used by patients may be infected with the virus. If these discarded materials are not managed properly then the infection could spread."

Liu added that the EPA also had a role to play in dealing with the disposal of animals infected with the HN virus, which if managed improperly could lead to the spread of the disease.

Measures that the EPA has taken to increase staff awareness include producing a handbook on regulations relating to staff procedures, holding training sessions -- particularly in relation to sanitation procedures -- and giving talks around the nation.

The EPA has also invested in the protection of its staff and has 4,000 protection suits in stock.

EPA officials urged the public to take precautions and to call 0800-0666666 to alert officials of any suspicious discarded materials.

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