Sun, Sep 16, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan cites Beijing data `gap' following TB scare

NOT SO VIGILANT The government's Geneva office complained to the WHO that China had not reported a case of on-flight exposure to TB as WHO rules required

AGENCIES , GENEVA

Taiwan on Friday asked the WHO to help close a "gap" in disease control, citing poor monitoring of health risks.

In a statement issued by its diplomatic office in Geneva, Taipei said it was concerned that Beijing had not done enough to implement the WHO's international health rules requiring strict oversight of disease outbreaks and other threats.

Taiwanese authorities cited a case in July of two tuberculosis patients traveling by air from Taiwan to Nanjing via Hong Kong, one of whom was multidrug-resistant.

Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) "promptly reported the case to the WHO" and notified Chinese authorities, but received no response, the statement said.

In the absence of any response, Taiwan sent experts to China to make special arrangements for the patients' return.

However, "for the passengers and cabin crew in the same flight with this couple on their way from Taiwan to Hong Kong, 285 of them including citizens from the United States, Indian, Japan and the Netherlands, each needs to be alerted and advised," the statement said.

"It is the Taiwan CDC that has been totally in charge of detecting, assessing, notifying and reporting the case with effective responses as expected by the [international health regulations]," it said.

The WHO rules require countries to disclose potential threats from disease, chemical agents, radioactive materials and food.

Taiwan enacted them unilaterally but is not in direct contact with the WHO because the organization will not admit it as a member.

While Taipei intends to implement the global health rules on its own, it "still needs the cooperation of the WHO so as to be included, on a de facto basis at least, in the global system," the statement said.

"The gap caused by Taiwan's exclusion from the [international health regulations] not only threatens Taiwan's health security, but also puts other countries at great risk," the statement said.

It noted that migratory birds, seen as a key factor in the spread of avian flu, fly over Taiwan annually.

"Therefore, the Taipei delegation urges the WHO and its member states to look into the problem and take appropriate actions in helping find a solution to close the gap in the global disease control system," it said.

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