Czechs buy up bird flu medicine on the market

Romania, photo: CTK

As the fight to stop the lethal bird flu virus from becoming a global pandemic gathers pace, health organizations are trying to provide the public with ever more information about what a possible flu pandemic would entail.

Romania,  photo: CTK
Daniela Lazarova has been following developments here in the Czech Republic. So Daniela what have the Czech authorities undertaken so far and how informed is the Czech public at this point?

Well, the Czech health and hygiene authorities have obviously undertaken all the necessary precautions which the WHO has advised. There is a ban on poultry imports from all high risk countries, most recently Turkey and Romania.

The health ministry currently has 600,000 doses of the anti-viral drug which is effective against the H5N1 virus - further deliveries are expected - and negotiations are underway for the Czech Republic to import 2 million doses of the anti-viral vaccine once it has been developed and made available. That of course can only happen after a bird flu virus actually crosses with human flu strains -and the bird flu becomes transmittable from human to human. The health ministry has appealed to the public to get vaccinated against seasonal flu which experts say could, to a certain degree, help lower the risk of a pandemic.

Photo: CTK
And I know that poultry farms are under close scrutiny and many have invested in facilities that will help protect them by isolating the farm birds from migratory birds in the vicinity.

Having said all that, some medical experts have voiced doubts as to whether the country -in particular hospitals are adequately prepared to deal with a pandemic in terms of both facilities and medicines.

So how informed is the public about the threat of bird flu?

I'd say people are very well informed. Certainly no one who watches television and reads the papers could fail to be. If you need any proof of that - then all I need say is that Czechs have virtually bought up the entire supply of anti-viral drugs on the market that are said to be effective against bird flu. That's in view of the fact that in the event of a pandemic high risk groups of the population would get the drug first. I think the health authorities actually feel that the public is overly concerned. David Rath, the president of the Doctors' professional association and the man who is expected to become the next health minister attempted to calm peoples fears with the following statement yesterday:

David Rath,  photo: CTK
"At this moment I would say that people are far more at risk of dying in a road accident than they are of dying of the bird flu. Of course there are fears and I am not saying that these fears are unjustified but I would appeal to the public to use their common sense."

Nevertheless, today the topic is front page news in all the papers and there's a four page supplement devoted entirely to the bird flu - containing a vast amount of information presented in reader-friendly style so people can understand it. Readers' most common questions are answered - like is there any point in buying the anti-viral drug in question, how can I protect my child, what are the symptoms, should people wear surgical masks during a pandemic, and many, many others. So it's an issue that's very much in the limelight and one that we'll certainly be hearing more of in the coming days.