Bangkok – The danger of the bird flu turning into a full-blown pandemic in the region is as real and as dangerous as the terrorism threat. Yet, Asean countries are not doing enough to protect their people from the virus, say health experts.
Southeast Asian nations have yet to stockpile sufficient doses of the anti-viral drug oseltamivir, Dr Robert G Webster, professor at St Jude Children's ResearchHospital, told an Asean parliamentary seminar on the spread of avian influenza, or bird flu, on April 19.
Oseltamivir, or Tamiflu, has been singled out by the World Health Organisation as its drug of choice to restrict the spread of the virus in case of a human flu pandemic.
Dr Webster said it is essential for Asean countries to build up their collaboration in this area and come up with measures to control the spread of bird flu, such as through vaccination and stockpiling medicine.
He added that bird flu could remain widespread in the region because it stems from free-range ducks farming, which is common in several Asean countries, especially in Thailand and Vietnam. Since ducks have become the reservoir of H5N1 strain of the avian flu, the only solution left is to cull all the infected ducks, which is almost impossible.
The two day-workshop - which saw the participation of lawmakers from China and South Korea but not from the Asean countries of Malaysia and thePhilippines – ended with a pledge to promote collaboration among governments to fight the virus and to support the allocation of resources to fight the virus.
* Asian lawmakers vow to fight deadly bird flu virus (The Straits Times, April 21)
* Asean defences are weak against bird flu (Bangkok Post, April 20)