Health alert unchanged

VIRUS THREAT: The health department said that it doesn't plan to raise its alert level for Chinese visitors after Beijing confirmed its first human bird flu cases


Fri, Nov 18, 2005 - Page 2

The Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday it will not further raise the alarm level for tourists from China for the time being despite the confirmation of the first human cases of bird flu in China.

Lin Ting (林頂), deputy director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) under the DOH made the remarks after China confirmed that a nine-year-old boy in Hunan Province and a 24-year-old female poultry worker in Anhui Province had contracted the H5N1 strain of the avian flu virus and that the latter had died. The H5N1 strain poses the greatest threat of mutating into a form that could trigger a human pandemic.

Lin said that because of the lack of transparency in China's disease control, the center on Oct. 26 raised the level of alarm for tourists from China.

Lin said that travelers from China are asked to monitor their health for 10 days after their arrival in Taiwan. The policy covers travelers entering the country from China through Hong Kong, Macau, or Kinmen and Matsu.

"Taiwan will step up communications with health authorities in Hong Kong and Macau and with international health organizations so that it will not be caught off guard in the event of an avian flu outbreak in China," he added.

He urged Taiwanese residents traveling to China to avoid contact with poultry or going to areas where avian flu cases have been reported, and to refrain from going to medical institutions unless absolutely necessary.

Under the DOH's health policy, travelers displaying flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough or soar throat, will be asked to fill in a questionnaire and notify airport quarantine staff of their condition. Also, all tourists from China will be requested to check their body temperatures twice a day during a 10-day period. If their temperature exceeds 38?C, they will be required to wear a surgical mask and report to local health authorities, who will assist them in seeking medical treatment.

A similar measure was adopted on Oct. 10 for travelers entering Taiwan from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia.

The department said that it was confident it will be able to receive a license to produce Tamiflu.

The DOH filed an application with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) on Oct. 31 for a "compulsory license" to allow Tamiflu to be produced in Taiwan.

The IPO under the Ministry of Economic Affairs is set to convene a screening meeting of experts and academics today.

In related developments, Taiwan will send veterinary epidemiologists to the UK to sort out the government's concerns over a report by British authorities that the virulent H5N1 bird-flu strain was found in silver-eared mesias exported from Taiwan, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said yesterday.