Exercise designed to test Taiwan's ability to prevent the spread of H5N1 virus
2005-10-19 /central news agency /
Agriculture officials and veterinarians, wearing protective suits and masks, perform a drill in a Hsinchuang gymnasium in Taipei County, yesterday. /KEYE CHANG, TAIWAN NEWS
The army's chemical force took part in a nationwide anti-avian flu exercise yesterday in Hsinchuang, Taipei County, according to military sources.
The supra-ministerial exercise, sponsored by the Council of Agriculture, called together personnel from the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the Coast Guard Administration, the Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Administration, as well as city and county governments around the nation.
The exercise was aimed at testing Taiwan's ability to prevent an avian flu outbreak and control the spread of H5N1 - the strain of avian flu considered most likely to mutate into a form that is easily transmitted among humans, officials said.
Since 2003, the H5N1 strain has killed thousands of migratory birds in western China, led to the culling of millions of chickens in Thailand, Romania and a number of other Asian and European countries, and resulted in the death of at least 60 people. Taiwan is at particular risk, as many migratory birds pass through the island on their journey south at this time of year.
Participants in the exercise simulated culling affected birds, burying or burning the culled birds, stemming the flow of poultry and meat smuggling, and protecting their own health as well as the health of locally raised animals and poultry.
World Health Organization experts have warned that if the H5N1 virus mutates into a strain that is easily transmitted among humans, it could lead to a major global pandemic that could kill millions of people.
Meanwhile, officials from the Veterans Affairs Commission urged the country's veterans and their dependents to observe a 10-day self-health monitoring program after returning to Taiwan if they travel to Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia or Cambodia. Home-bound people are required to wear face masks and fill in health report forms if they cough, have fever or suffer a sore throat during their flights or after arrival, they added.