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2022-8-8 6:00:15

Experts call for bird flu vaccine plan
submited by kickingbird at Feb, 17, 2005 7:43 AM from Bangkok Post

International experts on bird flu yesterday urged the government to step up vaccine study plans as a contingency against a potential avian influenza pandemic.

Roger Webster, a professor at the infectious disease department of St Jude Children´s Research Hospital, in Tennessee, called for an immediate study on bird flu vaccine so policymakers should know how to deal with the deadly virus.

``It doesn´t mean that we have to use vaccine among poultry and humans to curb avian flu now. But it´s better for the government to prepare for a vaccination study while we´re given an opportunity to do so,´´ he told a forum on emerging diseases.

Vaccine preparation for ducks was also needed because domestic ducks were playing an important role in the H5N1 development.

Options for controlling the virus included increasing bio-security and a study of standardised vaccines for humans, he said.

Stockpiling oseltamivir, an antiviral drug, was also necessary because it was the first line of defence against bird flu until a vaccine was developed, he said.

A bird flu vaccine trial is underway at laboratories in London, the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and St Jude Children´s Research Hospital. The National Institute of Health will start human trials this month.

Scott Dowell, director of CDC´s International Emerging Infection Programme, said the mass slaughter of poultry did not stop the spread of bird flu among poultry.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu may be changing, said Dr Dowell, who works with the Public Health Ministry.

The government on Tuesday decided to delay for a week a decision on whether to approve new measures to fight bird flu, including culling millions of free-range ducks, for fear the measures would panic people and other countries.

Prasert Thongcharoen, president of the Influenza Foundation Thailand, said he was disappointed in the government´s decision, saying it would send the wrong message about the risk of virus transmission among humans.

The decision could affect both the health and livestock surveillance systems set to control the epidemic as a whole, he added.

Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said the prime minister wanted more time to review the bird flu plan now the election campaign was finished, so he had asked for a week´s delay until another meeting on Monday.

Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng, chairman of the bird flu committee, said he would wait until next week before deciding whether the plan to cull free-range ducks would go ahead.

If the cull goes ahead, about 2.7 million young free range ducks would be bought from farmers and culled, while 5.5 million adult ducks would be mortgaged with the government. Nirundorn Aungtragoolsuk, from the Livestock Development Department´s bureau of disease control and veterinary services, said the role played by ducks in spreading the disease was still a concern. They were able to carry the disease without showing symptoms.

The disease struck here last January, resulting in more than 60 million birds being culled, and the deaths of 12 people.

Yesterday Mr Chaturon responded angrily to comments by Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchob that the Agriculture Ministry had nothing to do with the bird flu plan put on hold by the prime minister.

Mr Chaturon said the ministry had sent its staff to the cabinet meeting, where Mr Newin said he would abide by any measures that arose from the plan.

``There were no objections from the Agriculture Ministry when the issue of free-range ducks was discussed in the meeting,´´ he said.

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