Sun, Mar 12, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Change bird flu map: US lawmakers

DISSERVICE Three US representatives blasted the WHO for disseminating wrong information with its inclusion of Taiwan as an area infected by H5N1

CNA , WASHINGTON

Three members of the US Congress supported Taiwan's efforts on Friday in asking the WHO to correct maps that wrongly include Taiwan on the list of countries affected by the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus.

Republican representatives Tom Tancredo, Dana Rohrabacher and Steve Chabot made the request officially in a letter addressed to WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook, saying they were "disappointed" at the matter, which they called a "great disservice" both to Taiwan and to all WHO member nations.

They reminded the WHO that its objective is "the attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health."

"It makes little sense to us then that the WHO would knowingly disseminate false information about this growing threat," they said.

"Given the magnitude of the danger posed by H5N1, it seems to us that providing accurate information about the spread of the virus is of paramount importance if member nations are to adequately prepare or respond to a potential outbreak of the virus," they added.

They called on the WHO not to "play politics with people's health" by yielding to China's "illogical and obsessive mission to isolate Taiwan."

"We hope that in the future the organization will focus more on carrying out its mission than it does on complying with Communist China's foreign policy demands," they said.

The error appears in maps used by the WHO to illustrate the situation of H5N1 infections among poultry, wild birds and humans.

Although Taiwan has not reported H5N1 cases among either poultry or humans, it is classified as a H5N1-affected area because the WHO regards Taiwan as a province of China, where both poultry and human bird flu cases have been reported.

Amid strong protest from Taiwan over the case, WHO officials publicly confirmed in a news conference on Friday that Taiwan maintains its status as an area free of H5N1 infections, with no confirmed animal or human case of avian flu having been reported in the country.

However, the officials did not respond to questions as to how the WHO will correct the maps, and some WHO staff members said privately that it may be difficult for the organization to change its "nation-based" classification maps under its "one China" policy.

Government officials in Taiwan said they will continue their protest actions until the WHO corrects the mistake.

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