Premier orders establishment of influenza response center

Taipei--Premier Lin Chuan (??) on Thursday ordered the establishment of an emergency operations center under the Executive Yuan for epidemiological studies of influenza, in a bid to contain the spread of the disease, according to Cabinet spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (???).

Lin said during a regular Cabinet meeting that avian flu outbreaks not only impact the poultry industry but can also endanger human health and therefore, he instructed the Council of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health and Welfare to set up a national-level influenza prevention and control center tasked with conducting epidemiological studies and setting up a standard operating procedure for the prevention and control of the virus, according to Hsu.

The premier also suggested that a research institute responsible for bird flu studies be established.

Lin noted that China has recently discovered a new type of the virus and that some of bird flu viruses found there can infect people who come in close contact with infected live or newly killed birds.

In such a situation, Lin said, if a research institute can be established to devise preventive measures, then the spread of avian flu in Taiwan can be contained.

Lin issued the directive as an avian flu outbreak has been on the rise in the country since the beginning of this year.

In February, Taiwan reported its first imported human case of bird flu in a 69-year-old Taiwanese man who was diagnosed with the H7N9 strain of the virus after returning from southern China.

To contain the spread of bird flu, particularly the highly pathogenic H5N6 virus transmittable to humans, the COA imposed a seven-day nationwide ban on the slaughter and transportation of poultry on Feb. 17.

Other avian flu virus strains identified on farms in Taiwan are N5N2 and H5N8.

However, three new cases were reported on the same day as the ban was lifted on Feb. 24 after experts concluded that the bird flu outbreak in Taiwan had slowed down over the past week.

When asked whether the seven-day ban was successful in preventing the spread of bird flu, Agriculture Minister Lin Tsung-hsien (???) said Thursday at a legislative session that samples of birds in the new bird flu cases were sent for testing on Feb. 18, when the ban was still in effect, and the cases were then confirmed on Feb. 24.

Lin added that whether the measure was successful will only be confirmed in late May after migratory birds move away from Taiwan and no confirmed bird flu cases have been reported.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel