October 17, 2005
AVIAN FLU: GLOBAL 'ANTIDOTE' IS 'BE PREPARED'
** Media see "deadly flu pandemic" as one of the most "underestimated dangers of our time."
** Writers call for "preparedness" and "preventive measures" to counter avian flu "threat."
** Euro and Asian outlets urge international cooperation to prevent "killer disease."
'Incalculable and growing risk'-- Papers cautioned that the "danger remains real" for a human "lethal avian flu" pandemic "sweeping the globe." Experts predicted we are "overdue" for a pandemic because 37 years have passed since the last one and there has been "no interval of more than 39 years between two pandemics." European and Asian analysts remarked on the steady "westward advance" of the disease from Asia and its possible impact resulting from "the rapid movement of people between the continents." Germany's center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung advised that "viruses do not need trucks," and Britain's conservative Times projected that "Europe will soon be a vast hot zone." We must start "taking the threat seriously," added Thailand's top-circulation Bangkok Post.
'Step up prevention'-- Observers argued "doomsday" predictions of a global deadly "catastrophe" have led countries to take "protective measures" rather than give in to complacency or panic. An Asian writer insisted that people are "more likely to heed warnings if they come from the top." A Czech analyst judged it "important to follow" the U.S. lead as the "motor of the world economy," and "allocate great amounts" in the "fight against a possible pandemic." Australia's regional Advertiser pointed out its government's "precautionary" stockpiling of medicines last year; Peru's Lima America Television stated authorities there have "failed to order the medicines required to treat this disease." Hong Kong's independent South China Morning Post claimed, the best preparation to "avoid an outbreak" is to take "proper precautions" to "limit the danger." Canada's conservative Montreal Gazette hailed "high vigilance" and "common sense" as the "best prescription" for this "barnyard epidemic."
'World community must act'-- Many writers cited a "farsighted" effort by "the world community" to "fight the cyclops" in the "hour of emergency regulations." Taiwan's conservative China Post lauded a U.S.-led effort to work out a "common strategy for battling a widely expected outbreak" before "disaster strikes." A Russian critic faulted the U.S. for its "monopoly rights" on the "production of medicine" for the "deadly virus"; a British paper urged drug makers to "license their production worldwide." Some editorialists called for regional cooperation; others posited that greater resources at the "international level" would create "more effective vaccines and epidemic surveillance" to strengthen the "frontline." Indonesia's independent Kompas insisted on a "global response" to "share information and resources" and take "prompt actions" to "prevent a pandemic." South Korea's conservative Chosun Ilbo pledged country expertise to "international efforts to conquer the deadly disease." Some observers favored the establishment of a world "compensation scheme" for poultry farmers to soften the negative economic impact of "slaughtered flocks" on individuals and the poultry industry.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Susan L. Emerson
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 45 reports from 25 political entities over 30 September - 17 October, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Be Prepared: Complacency Is No Cure For Bird Flu"
The conservative Times warned (10/14): "It is not hard to depict the steady westward advance of Asian flu in chillingly cinematic terms; nor to conclude that Europe will soon be one vast hot zone, reeling from an overdue pandemic.... A more likely scenario, endorsed by the World Health Organization, posits the gradual mutation of the H5NI virus over an uncertain period, probably of years rather than months.... The makers of Tamiflu and similar drugs should, meanwhile, be encouraged to license their production worldwide. This is not the time to panic about bird flu, nor for complacency. It is time for farsighted preparation."
"On A Wing And A Prayer"
The center-left Independent proclaimed (10/11): "Some European countries are facing the pandemic relatively unprepared. It is in the interests of the entire EU to see that any outbreak is swiftly tackled. The efforts of individual governments will not be enough.... At an international level, governments need to devote greater resources for developing more effective vaccines and epidemic surveillance. The danger remains real. We are perilously close to a global public health emergency."
GERMANY: "Danger For Poultry"
Joachim Müller-Jung commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (10/14): "Experts believe the H5N1 virus is particularly aggressive due to its molecular particularities. The aggressiveness combined with the ability to modify makes it a potential pandemic agent. Although it has been around for years, coexisting with men and constantly mutating, it has not yet realized its destructive potential. It is an evolutionary lottery and we only play the tragic role. Until we are there, it does not make sense to speak of a virus that is dangerous for men. Last winter's ordinary flu and the new one are the greater and more dangerous enemies. Flu shots, as recommended by doctors and the EU commission, would probably be no protection against an avian flu, but they can rescue lives. And if a pandemic breaks out, they would prevent dangerous double infections. You cannot yet get a life insurance in pharmacies. It will be more important that the pandemic commission gears up its work and that international cooperation restricts the avian plague step by step."
"H5N1 Is Approaching"
Norbert Lossau noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (10/14): "The EU's information policy is chaotic. First, we have been given the all-clear, and a day later the EU realizes that a virus has reached Turkey that has killed at least 60 people in Asia and millions of birds. For many years, researchers have being warning us of a scenario that could now become reality. Nobody should be surprised. There was enough time to prepare emergency plans. Let's hope they will not have to be implemented. Though we must now calmly observe and decide whether, when and how to respond."
"Infected By Fear"
Bas Kast observed in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (10/14): "There is a threat but no reason to panic. Today, we know much more about the 1918 virus, how it spreads and infects us. Quick responses can probably restrict a pandemic. Checking imports and travelers, and banning poultry imports make sense. But even if a pandemic breaks out we are not totally defenseless. There are effective antiviral drugs, particularly Tamiflu. Germany has bought a great deal of it. And experts work on prototypes for avian flu shots. Maybe we have to avoid mass events in the case of an emergency, but we are not there yet. However, that it might happen is more than a horror scenario."
"Measures To Counter Spread Of Flu"
Right-of-center Schwäbische Zeitung of Leutkirch (10/13) opined: "In the United States, TV stations broadcast special reports on the allegedly looming global flu wave. No one knows whether this pandemic really comes or how likely it is. The people, however, have difficulty accepting an abstract danger. This is especially true when we look at terrorism. Its strongest weapon is not a bomb attack but the spread of fear of such an attack. The avian flu and its allegedly looming infection of thousands of people are quasi the terror of nature. It is unpredictable, insidious, and cannot be fought. It may sound cynical but it is logical that a society in which people insure their cars against hailstones has greater problems with it than people, for instance, in Africa where they struggle for their daily survival and for whom life is a series of disasters."
"The Paths Of The Virus"
Joachim Müller-Jung commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (10/12): "Doctors watch a plague that is slowly getting out of control. This is not so much true concerning the infection risk for the people, because it can only strike those who are directly in contact with infected poultry. However, the virus is spreading among birds and poses an incalculable and growing risk. With every new outbreak it is more likely that the avian virus mutates and causes a pandemic. So far, birds were tested positive for the avian virus in East Asia, Kazakhstan and Siberia. If the cases in Turkey are confirmed, it would be the hour of emergency regulations."
"Above The Clouds"
Centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (10/12) editorialized: "It remains unclear how great the danger is the avian flu poses to men. It is clear that also sick birds can fly. Above the clouds their freedom has no limits. This means that local, regional or national emergency plans do not make sense. There must be a Europe-wide coordination. What do we have Europe for if not for cases like this one?"
"Fight The Cyclops"
Patrick Illinger remarked in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (10/11): "The virus is a Cyclops because it is absolutely unclear how quickly the H5N1 agent can mutate into a human virus. There are predictions about the possible extent of such a pandemic. All simulations predict millions of deaths across the world.... Because the probability of the catastrophe is unknown, the world community must act like during a quake or hurricane. Protection measures must be taken. Banning the import of poultry from the Balkans is a beginning, but viruses do not need trucks. A coordinated action of the world community would make sense to stop the pandemic at its beginning. Birds must be vigorously slaughtered in the affected regions. The world must be ready to pay compensation to the owners, similarly to the costs of dykes in flooding areas and stable houses in quake regions.... The flu is one of the most underestimated dangers of our time. People must be better informed."
"Flu And The State"
Norbert Lossau editorialized in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (10/11): "The fear of a possible lethal avian flu is comparable with the fear of terror attacks. Nobody can predict whether, when and how seriously it will hit us. It is clear that there is a risk. In both cases we can talk of an 'abstract danger.' However, there is an important difference. Every person and state can take concrete and efficient measures against the terror of nature. Notorious opponents to flu shots should take the precautionary measure this autumn. This cannot guarantee a complete protection against the virus of the avian flu, but it can prevent a dangerous double infection. The state should make sure that poultry does not get infected. Chickens and ducks should be kept in a hut now, and not only when we are dealt the first cases of avian flu."
ITALY: "U.S., Pentagon Deployed To Counter [Avian flu] Epidemic"
Elena Jemmallo advised in pro-government, center-right daily Il Giornale (10/14): "The more incisive decision taken by the Bush Administration: should this feared Avian pandemic flu spread worldwide reaching the United States, the control of the emergency will not fall to health officials but to the Department of Homeland Security. The Pentagon might also play a role, because President George Bush intends to task it with growing responsibilities in the management of natural disasters."
"In Turkey, The Virus That Kills Man"
Federico Ungaro concluded in Rome's center-left daily Il Messaggero (10/14): "Meanwhile a race for the leadership to fight an eventual pandemic is looming between the U.S. and the rest of the world. In a summit held recently in Washington, the U.S. proposed the creation of a databank of all of the different strains of the H5N1 virus in circulation, in order to control changes and, of course, to develop a vaccine. The move even preceded that of the Health World Organization, which will address the issue only after two meetings scheduled in Ottawa, on October 24-25, and then in Geneva."
RUSSIA: "Another Global Challenge"
Artur Blinov held in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (10/12): "As it sounds an alarm, Washington won’t answer some questions. One of them is, Was it necessary to recreate the Spanish flu virus to find out about the danger of avian flu? While there is no certainty about the avian flu mutation, the deadly virus is already there, kept in a military laboratory in Rockville. As a result, the United States holds a monopoly on the virus that can kill millions across the world. Some of the bioengineering methods used by Jeffrey Taubenberger have been made public, which pose a serious danger, too. Finally, with the Americans holding monopoly rights for the production of medicine for the avian flu, there is the question of its availability to other countries. Knowing HIV-AIDS preparations are still inaccessible to patients in many countries, it is easy to see the same may happen to the avian flu drugs."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Avian Flu Pandemic Attacks"
Zdenek Pospisil, Professor of the Veterinary and Pharmaceutical University, asserted in mainstream MF Dnes (10/12): "It must be unfortunately stated that fears of a new flu pandemic...avian flu, are substantiated. Repeated direct transmissions of avian flu viruses to humans, and the existence of new antigen virus stems which appeared very likely last week among migrating water birds in the Danube delta in Romania, support this. The rapid movement of people between the continents might also play a negative role.... Statistical observations from previous centuries indicating that there was no interval of more than 39 years between two pandemics may not be disregarded when pondering over the threat of a new pandemic. And 37 years have passed since the last pandemic in 1968."
"The U.S. Feels Avian Flu"
Jan Machacek observed in the leading business daily Hospodarske noviny (10/10): "Considering the consequences, it is important to follow how the U.S. faces the avian flu threat, because it is the motor of the world economy. If American motor "grates", it would affect the whole world.... The Bush administration allocated great amounts for the fight against a possible pandemic. However, some American media already predict a much larger catastrophe. For example, the New York Times--referring to a secret government report--outlined a scenario, according to which almost two million people could die. It predicts overcrowded hospitals, looting at clinics and in pharmacies, and a collapse of energy, food and water distribution systems. Of course, the newspaper is a traditional critic of the Bush administration. However, in a few months we will be sure that it was not wrong."
IRELAND: "Challenges Posed By Avian Flu Threat"
The center-left Irish Times editorialized (10/17): "Confirmation that the H5N1 avian flu strain has spread to Turkey and Romania from Asia over the last six months has suddenly brought it home that Europeans need to prepare seriously for a possible human influenza pandemic.... On previous occasions millions have died in similar outbreaks. Health authorities know they come in cycles and contemporary conditions would facilitate its transmission. Nevertheless those preparing for this possibility--and media publicizing them--face a real challenge to balance relevant information and cautionary action against extravagant and unnecessary public alarm…preparedness is vital if this danger is to be handled effectively. Precautionary action needs to be taken at local, national, European and worldwide levels. Our global connectedness is vividly illustrated by the facts of this case.... There is a lively debate in the United States about levels of preparedness for this threat compared to those for terrorism or biological warfare. The Senate Republican majority leader Bill Frist has criticized the lack of action by the Bush administration and called for a research effort on the scale of the Manhattan Project to tackle such pandemic risks."
MACEDONIA: "Seriously Against Avian Influenza"
Aleksandar Dimiskovski expressed the following in privately owned independent Skopje Dnevnik (Internet version 10/12): "Macedonia must prepare itself for a possible avian influenza pandemic much more seriously. This is so because it is unrealistic to expect that this disease will bypass our country, even though it has already spread in the neighboring states, experts warn. In their view, the authorities are downplaying the danger of the spread of avian influenza in the country, although it has already appeared in several countries in the region. Birds infected with avian influenza have been detected in Romania and Turkey over the past 10 days. In Romania, the virus was discovered in three ducks in the village of Ceamurlia de Jos, but it has still not been specified whether they were infected with the deadly H5N1 virus. In Turkey seven people have been hospitalized under the suspicion that they have contracted this disease."
"We Are The Only Ones As Cool As A Cucumber"
Aleksandar Dimiskovski commented in privately owned independent Skopje Dnevnik (Internet version 10/12): "Macedonia has undertaken almost no precautionary measures to deal with the danger of the spread of avian influenza, which has already begun knocking on our neighboring states' doors. Our country is sleeping, because although the virus has reached the Balkans, the relevant authorities have yet to review the preventive measures. Our neighbors are distributing protective masks and gloves to farmers, procuring vaccinations, educating villagers, and distributing leaflets to citizens about the symptoms of this disease. However, in our country...this has yet to be done.... The health minister said yesterday that the public interest in avian influenza is a good thing...as long as it does not turn into panic. Well, panic emerges due to the lack of information.... The people's fear can be abated only if something is done to protect them from this deadly disease. The statements made two days ago that Macedonia had banned poultry imports from the affected Turkey and Romania as early as two weeks ago were rather unconvincing. This is why statements such as 'God help us' are justified.... While the whole world is preparing to fight avian influenza, which has already killed about 60 people, Macedonia appears to be engulfed by the conviction that avian influenza will fly over it."
POLAND: "Concerned, But Not Panicked"
Danuta Walewska wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (10/17): "Prevention is the best means; that is why the European Commission decided to implement restrictive measures. If all poultry farmers in Poland apply them, flu carried by migrating birds will not reach domesticated fowl. There is a reason to be concerned because breeders and veterinary authorities will have to struggle with nature more than anything. There is no reason to be panicked, though, as consuming poultry meat bought in a hygienic modern store, where all the stuff is under strict control, does not expose us to a higher risk than in a situation where there is no threat of avian flu."
ROMANIA: "The Romanian Border"
Cristian Unteanu commented in independent daily Ziua (10/17): "If we look from Brussels towards Romania, the correct management of the current situation can provide anybody, either friends or foes, with a clear answer on our capacity to be a partner for the European and Euro-Atlantic space. For European decision makers, for those in member states, for NATO analysts, Romania is now facing a classical situation of testing the capacity of ensuring internal security in several of its major components.... It is expected that Romania should prove that... national, regional and local authorities have acted rightly in accordance with the alert protocol for crisis situations similar to the one used by our EU partners.... Romania can practically demonstrate that it’s capable of fulfilling the role of the EU and NATO’s farthest Eastern point.... We cannot secure any world frontier against the risk of avian flu, but a country as such can be a frontier. And if the management of this unique situation in our contemporary history shows Europe that we can be partners, then many of the negative stereotypes so far can be frozen in the refrigerator, together with the samples."
"More Terrifying Than In Hitchcock’s Movie"
Corneliu Vlad declared in the independent daily Realitatea Romaneasca (10/17): "The world psychosis generated by the danger of the avian flu is about to create a collective terror that is more intense than the one in Hitchcock’s 'The Birds'.... [As for our country] should we laugh or should we cry, should we be afraid or indignant at the way things are done or to the things that are being said? The avian flu may be a worldwide pandemic, we may need an international campaign to stop or prevent it, but without national prompt and decisive action...we cannot get out of the nightmare or of the hilarious."
"Basescu Threatens To Veto Budget and Criticizes Avian Flu Steps"
Liliana Ruse warned in Bucharest-based Gandul (Internet version, 10/11): "President Traian Basescu appeared on public television and continued to voice discontent with the government. He was not shy to criticize Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur for having created panic when he dealt with avian influenza. 'I believe they exaggerated a lot, inducing a state of alert with the people, and I can say that I have been eating poultry every day since 7 October (Gandul editor's note: first suspicion of avian flu),' said Basescu. He was taken by the wave and did not consider the fact that this statement is risky enough and may create huge problems to the authorities in quarantined areas, where people are reacting increasingly irrationally, anyway. The president did not like Flutur's 'alarmist tone' or the fact that the minister 'spoke a different language' than his colleague, Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu. Eventually, Basescu admitted that the government had done a good job though, and that the steps they had taken were the correct ones."
SCOTLAND: "EU Prepares For Avian Flu After Turkish Outbreak"
Brendan O'Brien assailed in the Scotsman (Internet version, 10/13): "The European Union is preparing for a large-scale outrbreak of avian influenza after confirming that the virus found in poultry in Turkey is the strain that has killed 60 people in eastern Asia. The European Commission has banned imports of poultry from Turkey in response to the outbreak. EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said: 'We have received now confirmation that the virus found in Turkey is an avian flu H5N1 virus. There is a direct relationship with viruses found in Russia, Mongolia and China.' Scientists are concerned that the H5N1 strain of avian flu could mutate into a human virus and cause a global pandemic which could result in widespread loss of life in unprotected populations.... EU health ministers are set to meet in England next week to discuss the management of the anti-viral stockpile and other precautionary measures such as travel warnings, a ban on hunting and ordering the lock-down of free-range poultry.... Turkish health minister Recep Akdag said: '[The] bird flu is totally under control. The outbreak in winged animals occurred in one area and has been contained.' Experts are also meeting today to determine the viral strain found in ducks in Romania, which Mr. Kyprianou said EU officials were assuming was the same deadly strain of the avian flu outbreak in Turkey."
TURKEY: "No Need To Panic, But Let’s Handle The Crisis"
Haluk Sahin wrote in the liberal-intellectual Radikal (10/14): “The EU warning its citizens about avian flu in Turkey is a normal procedure, and we should not interpret such warnings as a sign of being anti-Turkish. Had a similar thing occurred in other countries, Turkey undoubtedly would have taken the same precaution. There is no need for panic, but we should acknowledge the existence of a crisis, and act accordingly. We should immediately establish a modern communication policy based on fairness and clarity. China tried to hide SARS when it first erupted two years ago, and this policy seriously damaged China’s international credibility.... It is no secret that some in Europe have a feeling that Turkey may consider doing the same. Instead of creating arguments to counter such prejudice, we should take every necessary step to handle this crisis and inform the entire world immediately."
EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
AUSTRALIA: "Ignoring Bird Flu Flys Into The Realm Of Danger"
Rex Jory contended in the regional Advertiser (10/13): "Australians can no longer afford to dance around the issue of avian influenza.... If the scattered outbreaks of people suffering avian flu in parts of Asia erupt into a global pandemic, it could become one of the great health catastrophes of the modern age.... Like AIDS, this new buzz word...is seeping into our community.... This week, authorities in Turkey and Romania ordered the culling of thousands of chickens and imposed quarantine zones after an avian flu scare. It was merely the latest...in a new geographical zone. Avian flu was first isolated in Hong Kong in 1997. It then bobbed up in people in South Korea, Japan, Thailand and more recently in Vietnam. It has since been found in Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia. You don't need an atlas to imagine the threat to Australia. In certain severe circumstances, avian flu can be transmitted from birds to humans. But the fear is that the deadly strain may mutate and become a highly contagious killer which cannot only cross from birds to humans but can span national borders and oceans. Last year Mr. Abbott...convinced Federal Cabinet to allocate $100 million to begin stockpiling medicines in case of an avian flu outbreak. It is a precaution no responsible government can afford not to take."
CHINA (HONG KONG, SAR): "Generosity Will Lessen Threat Of Flu Pandemic"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post argued (10/17): "In the face of the threat of a global pandemic from the H5N1 bird flu virus, Hong Kong is in a more fortunate position than other parts of the world: because of our history in dealing with avian influenza, we are better prepared. But a potentially serious situation has evolved elsewhere now that bird flu has spread from Asia to Europe. The only company manufacturing a reliable treatment is refusing to lower the cost of the drug or allow generic versions to be made.... United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan earlier this month said he saw a solution in Roche being less protective of Tamiflu. During a visit to the WHO's headquarters, he spoke of the need to make sure that intellectual property did not get in the way of ensuring the availability of drugs at prices that poor people could afford. India is preparing to make a generic version of Tamiflu for use in countries where the patent does not apply, while Taiwan is negotiating for a license to produce the drug and said it may go ahead without one to protect its people. Roche has donated large quantities of Tamiflu to the WHO, Turkey and Romania. This is commendable. But it should be prepared to make an even more generous gesture by allowing cheaper, generic, copies to be made."
"Preparation The Best Precaution For Bird Flu"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post insisted (10/7): "Scientists and health officials have made it clear that we face another deadly flu pandemic. Human-to-human transmission of a mutation of the H5N1 bird-flu virus is seen by some as inevitable. But being warned is not the same as being prepared. Governments around the world should not underestimate the extent of the danger posed by another flu pandemic. There is, however, no need to panic.... People are better prepared to cope with a crisis if they are kept informed. They are also more likely to heed warnings if they come from the top. U.S. President George W. Bush has set a good example. After the damaging debacle of his administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, he has good political reasons to be seen to be on top of the flu threat. Nonetheless, he was right to be frank with the American people this week. Even the world's only superpower cannot assume that its state and local authorities can contain and deal with an outbreak. Mr. Bush is seeking authority from the U.S. Congress to call on the military to help. It is hoped the gravity of his message will not be lost on the rest of the world.... The world is holding its breath amid doom-laden predictions. Only through taking proper precautions can the danger be limited and--we hope--an outbreak avoided."
"Work Together To Prevent Avian Flu"
The independent Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News went on to say (10/7): "Two experts have pointed out that the great flu of 1918 that killed 50 million people was similar to avian flu. If human-to-human transmission of the avian flu occurs, it may be more serious that the great flu pandemic of 1918. We believe that we should not rely merely on the government to prepare for avian flu. Individuals and private organizations should also sharpen their vigilance and be prepared. They should develop plans in areas such as environmental hygiene, crisis management and avian flu's impact on the economy.... We believe that the best way for Hong Kong people to protect themselves is to work together with the government to prevent the pandemic and establish a contingency plan."
TAIWAN: "Step Up Prevention Of Bird Flu"
The Kaohsiung-based Chinese-language daily Min-Chung Jih-Pao editorialized (10/12): "Many countries have paid serious attention to the likely outbreak of bird flu and adopted precautionary measures. Taiwan is located in an area where the weather is hot, the density of population is high, and poultry farms are close to where humans live. We should not rely on luck. The health administration should prepare enough bird flu vaccines and propagate correct sanitary ideas to the public in order to reduce the damage to the minimum.
"Don’t Forget Taiwan"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language China Post stated (10/9): "On Friday, representatives and experts from 80 countries and international health organizations gathered in Washington D.C. for a two-day conference aimed at working out a common strategy for battling a widely expected outbreak of avian flu virus.... The U.S.-led effort to coordinate a response before disaster strikes is a very wise idea that should be commended by all nations. While we are glad to see substantial action being taken to cope with this potential threat to world health, we would also like to remind the international community that Taiwan’s lack of participation in international health organizations poses a threat to the success of this coordination effort.... Now that the world is trying to learn from the lessons of the SARS crisis, we hope that the WHO and other international health organizations will see the urgent need for Taiwan to be brought into the loop. If the WHO and other organizations fail to change this mistaken policy, we will see Taiwan become a weak link in the chain of international control and our citizens will inevitably suffer. We think that no matter what kinds of claims Beijing thinks it has over our territory and population, there is absolutely no justification for political disputes to directly harm the public health of the Taiwan people."
INDONESIA: "World Responds To Avian Flu"
Leading independent Kompas reported (10/8): “Beginning Thursday, in Washington, U.S., experts and health officers from all over the world will gather to discuss coordinated responses to the spread of avian influenza (AI). The meeting is hoped to develop methods to share information and resources if the AI virus mutates and creates a human pandemic. If this happens, experts believe millions of human casualties will occur within a couple of months.... From a computer-generated model we understand that if prompt actions are taken, an epidemic can be contained and prevented from growing into a pandemic. But this would be true only if all countries are willing to immediately share information and provide treatment for patients. The goal is to achieve this common agreement. In addition to global response, preparedness in every country is vital because controlling AI at the national level would be a significant contribution to a global impounding effort.”
MALAYSIA: "World Community Should Fight Natural Calamities Together"
Columnist Chew Hock Choon declared in government-influenced Chinese-language daily Nanyang Siang Pau (10/12): "Bush and Osama treat each other as enemies. Yet they have failed to realize that their common enemy is the trans-national natural calamity. When mankind invests too much in natural and material resources trying to killing one another, we have forgotten that waves of destructive natural disasters are looming over our heads. Uncontrollable diseases such as AIDS, the threat of avian flu virus, which is near an explosive calamity stage, the unpredictable SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome] and the impact of global warming, which is moving closer and closer to the ground each day, have largely been ignored by the world community. The strong earthquake that shocked Pakistan and India last Saturday [ 7 October] has put the death toll to above one million [as published]. Such casualties caused by a natural disaster are even higher than the combined death tolls of the border wars between India and Pakistan. When Hurricane Katrina struck, even the mighty United States had no choice but to bow to its tyranny. And worst of all, when a tsunami suddenly struck Asia, millions [as published] did not even have the time to escape." The commentator concludes: "Since we stepped into the 21st century five years ago, we have already encountered unending natural disasters one after another. It is time for the world community to ponder the fact that national security is not built on making one another enemies on earth but to fight natural calamities together. But looking at the ruins of Pompeii (in Italy), we regret to observe that the world community has yet to learn from past history and take the global environment friendlier than we should."
"Time for Region to Seek International Support to Curb Spread of Avian Flu"
Government-influenced Chinese-language daily Nanyang Siang Pau editorialized (10/8): "Together with over 80 nations, representatives from Malaysia have also gathered in Washington last week (7 October) to participate in an International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza Meeting sponsored by the United States. They put their heads together and discussed the recent outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus in poultry and birds that is spreading speedily in some ASEAN countries. A recent WHO warning has said that possible mutation of current bird flu strain might trigger an international pandemic that could kill millions of people. It is time for ASEAN nations to seek international support to prevent the possible invasion of this killer disease. In this regard, we laud that our Malaysian government has also activated a preventive measure against avian flu including the stockpiling of the flu vaccines, putting all 21 (state-level) hospitals on high alert for suspicious avian flu cases, and implementing a compensation scheme to poultry farmers who report suspicious deaths of their poultry. The meeting in Washington has further brought the alertness of such possible pandemics closer to home. We hope that through international effort and regional cooperation, we can strengthen the preventive frontline to stop the outbreak of possible pandemics in the region."
NEW ZEALAND: "Bird Flu--Too Soon Or Too Late For Action?"
The Taranaki Daily News stated (10/11): "New Zealand, like the rest of the world, is woefully unprepared for the likely global pandemic of H5N1 avian influenza virus--commonly known as bird flu. But it can never be ready, other than by individual households stockpiling food, drinks and painkillers. At the current rate of anti-viral production, it will take 10 years to produce enough to treat 20% of the world's population. By then the disease will have long passed, not only in the hospitals but in the history books. It will have mutated into something else--benign or even more dangerous, nobody knows. In fact, the scientific world is divided over whether a human-to-human variety of H5N1 will happen at all, and whether that mutation will spread, and if it does how far. The best bet is that a human strain is possible. It has happened before.... The current crisis has been creeping up since 1997 in incremental steps that have disguised Nature's true intentions and led to scientific disagreement over the level of risk.... H5N1-watchers...sense puny Man's desperate attempts to contain the current outbreak are doomed to fail, and are rapidly doing so. There is a sense of slowly rising panic among political leaders and their scientific advisers that a worst-case scenario--of multi-million deaths, rioting in the fight for vaccines, food distribution systems interrupted by sick-lists, and economic chaos--would make New Orleans look like a picnic. And the enemy is so unpredictable that no one knows whether it is too soon to take serious pre-emptive action or too late."
SINGAPORE: "Natural Disasters Are The Common Enemy"
Columnist Chew Hock Choon commented in leading Nanyang Siang Pau (Internet version, 10/12): "Bush and Osama treat each other as enemies. Yet they have failed to realize that their common enemy is the trans-national natural calamity. When mankind invests too much in natural and material resources trying to killing one another, we have forgotten that waves of destructive natural disasters are looming over our heads. Uncontrollable diseases such as AIDS, the threat of avian flu virus, which is near an explosive calamity stage, the unpredictable SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome] and the impact of global warming, which is moving closer and closer to the ground each day, have largely been ignored by the world community. The strong earthquake that shocked Pakistan and India last Saturday [ 7 October] has put the death toll to above one million [as published]. Such casualties caused by a natural disaster are even higher than the combined death tolls of the border wars between India and Pakistan. When Hurricane Katrina struck, even the mighty United States had no choice but to bow to its tyranny. And worst of all, when a tsunami suddenly struck Asia, millions [as published] did not even have the time to escape." The commentator concludes: "Since we stepped into the 21st century five years ago, we have already encountered unending natural disasters one after another. It is time for the world community to ponder the fact that national security is not built on making one another enemies on earth but to fight natural calamities together. But looking at the ruins of Pompeii (in Italy), we regret to observe that the world community has yet to learn from past history and take the global environment friendlier than we should."
SOUTH KOREA: "ROK Can Help To Conquer Bird Flu"
The conservative Chosun Ilbo cautioned (10/8): "The World Health Organization recently warned that if avian influenza, which is spreading across Southeast Asia, mutates so it can spread among humans to cause a pandemic, the number of victims worldwide could reach 7.4 million. Furthermore, the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted that one million Koreans could be hospitalized and 30,000 of them would die in such a case.... We saw the bird flu spread on our chicken farms in 2003 and 2004, and North Korea did so in the spring. Given that the virus spreads from migratory birds and with the migration season just around the corner, we need to take thorough precautions, and tourists visiting Southeast Asia must be warned of the dangers. Diagnostic techniques and supplies of antiviral drugs like Tamiflu are inadequate in such Southeast Asian countries as Indonesia and Vietnam, where patients’ blood samples are sent to Hong Kong for analysis after they have died. In this regard, the ROK, which has experience in conquering bird flu and whose diagnostic techniques are of the highest standard, should take an active part in international efforts to conquer the deadly disease in Southeast Asia."
THAILAND: "Preparing For Pandemic"
Independent, English-language The Nation posited (10/16): "Greater transparency in monitoring outbreaks, mandatory culling and strict quarantines, as well as more international cooperation, are prerequisites for any success effort to contain the spread of the virus. Thailand has learned from its mistakes. The Thaksin administration committed serious blunders when the bird flu first hit the country in 2004, when it either played down or withheld crucial information about the extent of the epidemic for fear of losing face or incurring economic damage to the country. Lax enforcement of the mandatory culling of poultry and wild birds, and of quarantines, also contributed to the worsening of the crisis. Thailand has since put in place proper mechanisms and adequate resources for combating intermittent bird-flu outbreaks. Thailand has one of the better systems among developing countries in monitoring flu strains in birds and humans.... But Thailand, along with other members of the international community, can do a lot more in helping other Southeast Asian countries like Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia, deal with the worsening situation. Bird flu is highly contagious and has proved its capability to travel far and wide. It has become everybody’s problem."
"On Guard Against Deadly Challenge"
The top-circulation, moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok Post opined (10/12): "All of a sudden the world seems to have awakened to the doomsday prospect of a killer pandemic influenza sweeping the globe and killing people by the millions.... Washington, which until recently paid scant attention to the bird flu problem, is now taking the threat seriously.... The presence here in Bangkok of a U.S. health delegation led by Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt, to seek cooperation in fighting bird flu underscores the importance Washington has attached to the problem. Similar cooperation is to be sought when the U.S. team meets its counterparts in Vietnam and Cambodia.... With a human vaccine now being developed in the U.S., Thailand is ideally positioned for clinical trials of the vaccine. It is indeed heartening that the visiting U.S. health delegation has agreed in principle to let Thailand participate in the clinical trials, which should not only benefit the two countries but the world at large which is desperately looking for a vaccine against the deadly virus."
ARGENTINA: "Avian Flu: Doubts"
International editor Marcelo Cantelmi wrote in leading, centrist Clarin (10/15): "Probably, the major risk won't come from the epidemic itself, but from the limited and perhaps not so prudent actions the world seems to be taking to fight it. There are previous records, and they aren't positive. When the 'mad cow disease' broke out, it spread not only because of its strength, but also, due to the clandestine way in which it was handled by several European governments that covered the danger in order to avoid killing the cattle and suffering the losses that such an operation implied. If this epidemic fulfills the ominous forecast that accompanies it since it broke out in Asia, and turns into a pandemic, it’s legitimate to ask oneself whether the world is prepared to fight it. For the time being, the questions outnumber the answers."
"How Argentina Is Preparing"
Soledad Vallejos wrote in daily-of-record, moderate, pro-U.S. La Nación (Internet version, 10/14): "Since Argentina is far from the sources of contagion, it is considered to be at low risk. But is it prepared to cope with a possible avian flu epidemic? A report from the Ministry of Health...received by email yesterday states that it is. 'The Federal Ministry of Health has been developing a contingency plan for a year and a half. Our national laboratories are being upgraded and antiviral medications and antibiotics are being purchased,' states the document. Nevertheless, the strategy for implementing this action plan and the quantities of doses stockpiled of the antiviral medication oseltamivir, the only one that to date has demonstrated in vitro that it is effective against the avian flu virus, and which has been recommended by the World Health Organization, are not described in the document.... Moreover, sources from the pharmaceutical industry...admitted that while there have been discussions and negotiations with the federal government to determine requirements at a local level, no orders for this medication have yet been placed."
CANADA: "Panic Is The Wrong Antidote For Flu Threat"
The conservative Montreal Gazette alleged (10/13): "The headlines are arresting.... There is no doubt about it: you should be very afraid of avian influenza--if you happen to be a chicken. But whether this barnyard epidemic justifies panic...is a more complicated question. The best prescription for the fall of 2005 is high vigilance mixed with common sense. The former protocol, at least, is already in place. China…responded quickly to contain the outbreak.... Western health agencies are on high alert.... As U.S. authorities lick their post-Katrina wounds, we can be reasonably confident of a vigorous response to avian flu.... Which leads to the question of how much alarm is merited by the facts.... The potential of avian flu to create a human pandemic depends strictly on its becoming something else through a chance encounter with a human flu virus. To declare this will happen 'sooner or later' says precisely nothing about its likelihood in our lifetime.... But with new vaccines, improved quarantine measures and antibiotics to treat secondary infections, there are ample means to combat the threat. Avian influenza needs to be taken seriously. It is. Now we can ease up on the panic."
PANAMA: "Activating An Avian Flu Sanitary Alert"
Dustin Guerra wrote in independent La Prensa (Internet version, 10/12): "Avian influenza or 'poultry flu' is moving closer all the time to the Panamanian poultry industry, which has raised its defenses to the highest level after an outbreak of avian flu appeared in Colombia. Yesterday the Panamanian health authorities issued a preventive alert, and some other countries like Ecuador have closed their borders to imports of Colombian poultry products.... Although Panama does not import Colombian poultry products or byproducts, as it is a country whose poultry are infected with New Castle Disease, there are fears of the illegal entry of live birds like parakeets, other birds, and fighting cocks, which also carry the avian flu virus. The Directorate of Animal Health yesterday sent an official notice to all of its regional offices, telling them to conduct constant monitoring of the existing poultry farms.... The Panamanian poultry industry generates over $100 million in revenue a year for Panama, it provides 6,000 direct jobs, and its products are exported to 15 Latin American countries. The avian flu virus has caused the deaths of about 117 people around the world. Most of the cases have been concentrated in four countries in Southeast Asia, where highly pathogenic strains of the virus have been found."
The Spanish-language Panama City-based TVN commented (Internet version, 10/12): "Panama has banned the import of poultry and by-products from Colombia to prevent the possible propagation of any strain of the avian virus.... Colombia reported on Monday [ 10 October] that it had detected an outbreak of a harmless strain of the avian influenza virus at a farm in Tolima Department. It underscored, however, that the outbreak did not pose a threat to people or animals. [A Panama health official noted] 'That is why we are and will continue to reinforce surveillance at our main point of entry, the Tocumen Airport. Our office is effectively coordinating actions with customs and airport administration, including the scanning of all luggage.' Panama declared it was free of avian influenza virus in 2003 and has, thus, established strict surveillance measures to counter any possible import of products and wild animals that could be infected with this disease."
PERU: "Avian Flu Threat"
Lima America Television in Spanish commented (9/30): "The avian flu could become a serious threat in view of the fact that authorities have failed to order the medicines required to treat this disease despite a World Health Organization warning of a possible outbreak of avian flu. Neumologist Oswaldo Jave Castillo pointed out that Chile has already purchased the necessary vaccines while one case of avian flu has already been reported in Colombia. The United States has already strengthened sanitary controls at its airports in order to detect any possible cases of avian flu."
VENEZUELA: "Agriculture Ministry Banned Colombian Poultry Imports"
Katiuska Hernandez and Vanessa Davies declared in liberal El Nacional (Internet version, 10/12): "Authorities of Venezuela's Autonomous Agricultural Health Service (SASA)...have decided to suspend until further notice imports of poultry products and byproducts from Colombia. This action has been taken to prevent a possible spread of any strain of avian flu virus and to protect the Venezuelan poultry industry. This decision was made Monday night, after a first outbreak of avian flu (type H9 virus) was confirmed in three poultry farms in the Colombian department of Tolima.... This resolution...also restricts transfers of poultry products purchased by consumers in the border area. Beginning yesterday, Ecuador prohibited the import of poultry and poultry byproducts from Colombia for three months. No egg-laying birds, fertile eggs, products, byproducts, and derivatives of avian origin from Colombia may cross Ecuador's borders, states a resolution issued by the SESA [Ecuadoran Farming and Livestock Sanitation Service].... In Venezuela, residents of the San Antonio-Urena area in Tachira State normally buy food from the Colombian villages of La Parada and Cucuta. Now the National Guard has been ordered to block any poultry products coming from Colombia."
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