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Department of Health releases avian flu prevention handbook

2005-11-23 / Taiwan News, STAFF REPORTER / By Jenny W. Hsu

Taiwan continued to make preparations against a possible flu epidemic yesterday when the a local publishing company launched an avian flu prevention handbook . On the same day, the Department of Health asked 23 hospitals around the island to pledge to protect the health of the public.
Health Minister Hou Sheng-mou (侯勝茂) said that after reading the handbook through twice, he could not to find any faults with it.

Repeating his usual mantra that "knowledge is power," Hou urged the public to read to book, written by former Deputy Minister of Health Lee Long-tang, in order to understand how to best protect themselves from being infected.

"The key preventative measure is not stockpiling anti-viral drugs, but rather gaining knowledge of the flu," said Hou. "Once the public is educated on flu prevention, the country has no need to fear."

Lee said that as part of the effort to raise avian flu awareness, his book is providing the public with highly accurate information on the H5N1 virus.

For example, most people think that avian flu can only be prevented by vaccination, but they neglect the fact that eating a well-balanced diet, exercising three times a week, maintaining fresh air circulation, and having a positive attitude are extremely effective means of gearing the body to fight against the virus, said Lee.

Lee also said in his book that simply a donning mask might not be sufficient to prevent transmission of the virus. He suggested that people whose jobs involve a lot of physical contact, like cashiers or medical workers, should wear gloves.

Another supporter of the book, Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲), former director of the Center for Disease Prevention, explained how the bird flu virus jumps to humans.

"The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus is strictly an avian influenza virus that affects birds. It cannot affect human beings," Twu said."The real danger is when the virus combines with the normal human influenza strand and mutates into a new variant strand which is foreign and lethal to the human body," he added.

To strengthen the country's defense measures against the pathogen, the DOH also rallied 23 hospitals around the island to form a nation-wide support network in the fight against avian flu.

Representatives from 23 hospitals from every county met at the CDC yesterday to formally sign an official declaration pledging to provide assistance if avian flu hits the island.

DOH deputy minister Lin Ting said that according to the pledge, in case of an outbreak, hospitals must seal off their entire premises within four and half hours for the exclusive use of patients who display symptoms of bird flu.

Hou recalled that lack of preparation and prior coordination had caused immense confusion during the SARS period. Now that hospitals are amply informed and connected, they will form a check and balance system to assure the quality of care at each facility, he said.

Hou also promised that in case of a quarantine, the hospitals involved would be fully compensated by the government for loss of revenue.