20 March 2006

Bird Flu Readiness

How ready is the Philippines for an avian flu pandemic?

I came across this informative world map of avian flu. It is interactive and it shows the pandemic risk index of each country. For the Philippines, here is what it says:
PHILIPPINES - a high pandemic risk index of 2.78, individual components include an extreme risk of emergence (2.42), a medium risk of spread to and within the country (5.26), and an alarming high risk of incapacity to contain an outbreak (4.76).

The pandemic risk index or PRI is defined as "an outbreak of an infectious disease that affects people over an extensive geographical area." More definition of terms here. WHO situation updates are here.

So far, WHO has confirmed 173 human cases of bird flu worldwide. Of these cases, 93 have died, and almost all deaths occured here in Asia. The two countries mostly affected are Indonesia and Vietnam.

The Philippines, on the other hand, remains free of bird flu at the moment. But it alarms me that we are described as having a "high risk of incapacity to contain an outbreak," as shown above in the interactive world map of birs flu. Do we have stockpiles of Tamiflu ready just in case? Can we sit and relax with the NZ PM's promise of $500,000 as aid for early bird flu detection? Or should we wait and see what happens when the outbreak is upon us?

10 reactions:

bayibhyap said...

I think budget constraints is the main obstacle for the government but can't the private sector play a role in making Tamiflu available? This is a critical situation.

Sidney said...

Is Tamiflu really effective? Or is it just another hype to make a lot of money along the way... ?

The alarming high risk of incapacity to contain an outbreak is not that surprising, isn't it?

moks said...

Is it true that Tamiflu is only available to medical providers like you, and not to the general populace?

Dr. Emer said...

The critical aspect is best appreciated when it is already happening, Bayi. That's the usual case here.

Dr. Emer said...

Welcome to my original weblog, Sidney. Is Tamiflu effective? Well, let's put it this way --- it's better than not doing anything. There are studies that have shown it effective, and there are studies that have shown it had no effect at all. In Vietnam, for example, the bird flu strains found there were resistant to Tamiflu. The avian flu virus (H5N1) mutates a lot, and there is no effective vaccine against it...yet.

Dr. Emer said...

Hello Moks. No, that is not true.

bayibhyap said...

Malaysia is already a bird flu country now. As the days pass, more cases of bird flu are being detected in various parts of the country. The problem, I believe, comes from fighting cocks smuggled in from the neighboring countries, i.e. Thailand and Indonesia, mainly the latter.

For fear of aggravating our ultra-sensitive bigger and stronger neighbor, our ministers do not even dare suggest that the country help curb the problem. There are so many illegal immigrants in Malaysia coming in by boat that Malaysia cannot possibly monitor the situation completely.

Yes, we cull all the birds within a radius of 10km of each case of bird flu found but will this be effective? The government has banned the movement of birds and the slaughter of live chickens in the markets.

We have a limited stock of Tamiflu but I don't think that is being used yet.

Dr. Emer said...

I've heard about that over the news, Bayi. Who is your "ultra-sensitive bigger and stronger neighbor?"

bayibhyap said...

Indonesia. The politicians always incite their people about how ungrateful the neighbors are in not sharing their wealth and treating them badly. Singapore and Malaysia are the brunt of these threats because of our perceived wealth.

ipanema said...

"The government has banned the movement of birds and the slaughter of live chickens in the markets."

The problem lies in monitoring migratory birds. Simply impossible. People were warned not to disturb these places. There was a report in Singapore prohibiting people to visit the bird park for a while. Am not sure if it's still on.

The FDA has approved the use of Tamiflu for preventing influenza in children 1 to 12 years old. But warned patients that Tamiflu is not a substitute for the flu vaccine, so they should continue their annual vaccinations.