"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Monday, November 07, 2005

Bird Flu Hotline must be established

Senator Richard Gordon, Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), called for the creation of a telephone hotline where the public can report all information concerning the dreaded Avian Flu as part of the preparedness and response efforts of the government to prep up for the possible advent of bird flu in the country.

Gordon said the Bird Flu Hotline would help the Department of Health, Department of Agriculture and the PNRC to immediately act on reported cases of incidences of suspicious deaths of fowls and possible bird flu.

“These international birds come in our territories visa-free so we need to boost up our monitoring efforts. Through the Bird Flu Hotline, we can ask the public to be the government’s partner by calling up to report sightings of suspicious bird deaths and high incidence of flu most especially in areas near the markets, poultries, cockpit arenas, pet shops, and bird sanctuaries s well as ports where birds are being boarded,” said Gordon.

The senator also proposed for the registration of all bird handlers which includes their owners and workers. Gordon said that the Philippines, being a labor-intensive country, “should monitor the welfare of our workers.”

He added that any bird handler who catches flu is duty-bound to report his/her condition to the authorities for medical examination and surveying of his work area where possible contamination may have taken place.

Gordon reiterated his call for an extensive education campaign on Avian Flu to increase the public’s knowledge on the said disease. He had earlier instructed the local Red Cross chapters nationwide to re-activate and re-orient its Chapter Core Disseminators who underwent SARS, Public Health and Disaster Response Trainings and ordered the production of Information Education Communication materials to be distributed to schools and community health centers.

“We need to empower our people by educating them about the bird flu. This is critical in advancing the country’s preparedness, surveillance, and response efforts against the dreaded pandemic,” Gordon said.

The World Bank has already emphasized the potential human and economic repercussions from any bird flu pandemic, while the Asian Development Bank has said that an outbreak could push the world into recession and would cost Asian economies as much as $283 billion.

“We (the Philippines) should ensure that we have all the reasonable measures to prevent the outbreak of bird flu in the country and establish comprehensive and appropriate response plans,” said Gordon.

He added that he will raise the bird flu issue up on the upcoming International Red Cross Conference in Korea next week. “This is not just a local concern, people have died in our neighboring countries because of this disease. We can’t just stand here and get caught off guard,” pronounced Gordon adding that, “we will join hands and coordinate with our international counterparts to be able to draft more comprehensive plans and educational campaigns on bird flu.”

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