Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Thai government builds bird flu quarantine rooms

BANGKOK, Aug 8 (TNA) – In its strongest public admission yet of concern for a possible developing avian influenza epidemic, the Thai government Tuesday set aside Bt20 million (about US$530,000) for one hundred "quarantine rooms" for bird flu patients nationwide.

According to Thailand's Deputy Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, the government allocated the funds to protect doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, as well as patients and visitors to hsopitals across the kingdom.

Mr. Anutin said construction of the quarantine rooms, which will cost Bt200,000 each, is to ensure that hospital medical personnel and patients hospitalised for other reasons will not become infected with the avian influenza virus from bird flu patients.The deputy health minister, however, did not say that an epidemic was looming, but rather that the government was taking steps to protect the capacity of the national health system.

No scenario has been made public regarding the possible effects of bird flu attacking the caretakers themselves.Thai poultry, animal husbandry and health officials across the nation are on high alert for bird flu outbreaks following the recent reemergence of bird flu with the latest two deaths being reported in the last two weeks.

The kingdom has suffered more than 20 human cases of the disease, 16 of them fatal, since the first outbreak of bird flu in 2003.The minister insisted the government has no policy to cover up the number of patients infected with H5N1 virus because it wants the public to access information on the disease as much as possible so as to raise their awareness and vigilance.

Vaccination against bird flu is still illegal in Thailand as no study results substantiate that it can prevent the onset of the virus in case of exposure, Mr. Anutin said.

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