Thu, Jul 06, 2006 - Page 2 News List

First influenza research center opens

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice Minister of Health Chen Tsai-chin, left, and Center for Disease Control Deputy Director Shih Wen-i, preside over the inaugural ceremony of the National Influenza Center yesterday in Taipei.

PHOTO: FANG BIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

The nation's first national influenza research center was established in Taipei yesterday, a date chosen because it was the day three years ago when Taiwan was removed from the WHO's list of areas that had been affected by SARS.

Center for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director Shih Wen-i (施文儀) said that during the post-SARS period, the CDC saw the need to speed up domestic research on influenza and expand the exchange of information internally and overseas because the nation would face a great threat if another SARS epidemic and flu outbreak overlapped.

Given the recent mutations of the avian flu virus, the country must fully equip itself to face a possible epidemic, Vice Minister of Health Chen Tsai-chin (陳再晉) said at the ceremony.

The new center will coordinate the reporting, supervision and analysis of flu data.

Shih said the center would become a resource for medical groups at home and abroad to exchange information.

The director of the new center, Wu Ho-sheng (吳和生), said it would be able to verify suspected flu cases within 24 hours and it would be able to handle close to 5,000 cases everyday.

The center will use ferrets in its efforts to develop immunizations because the animal's flu symptoms are similar to humans, Wu said.

He said Taiwan has regularly volunteered influenza virus stems developed in the CDC's laboratory to the WHO since 1979, making the nation part of the international flu virus supervision circle.

The nation currently owns two antibodies for both type A and type B flu viruses, he said.

Wu said the CDC has worked hard to be officially recognized as a member of the WHO's network of influenza centers, but has been blocked because Taiwan is not a WHO member.

The center is the 113th national influenza research center in the world. There are 43 in Europe, 24 in Asia, 24 in North America, 13 in Africa and eight in Oceania.

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