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Stepping up efforts to control diseases
Guo Zi  Updated: 2004-09-15 08:53

World Health Organization officials have warned of an outbreak of avian flu in Asia-Pacific countries.

The warning means relevant countries should seek ways of tackling the threat as soon as possible.

Bird flu has already wreaked havoc on the region with 39 human cases to date, following the deadly pneumonia-like SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, last year.

China, Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia and Malaysia have all reported bird flu outbreaks since July, after an outbreak earlier this year. Viet Nam and Thailand have reported all 28 fatalities.

In populous Asian countries, where farmers normally live near their chicken and people choose live chicken at market, chances of catching the disease are high. These ways of life must be changed to try and stop the spread of sometimes-deadly diseases like this.

Animal health has not traditionally been looked at. Yet bird flu began as animal disease and SARS is suspected to have come from animals. Alarm bells should be sounding by now.

Measures must be taken to improve poultry-breeding practices.

A disease reporting system should be immediately implemented.

Previous experience in the SARS crisis tells us that efforts must be stepped up to halt the spread of any epidemic.

The Ministry of Health issued a circular on Monday, requesting all second-grade general hospitals or above should set up separate and quarantine sections for contagious diseases by the end of October. This is an active step in improving prevention work and medical treatment.

It is impossible to eradicate all contagious diseases. But better prevention and surveillance can at least help control them.

(China Daily)

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