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December 07, 2019

Health Ministry to increase spending on H5N1 prevention

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry Livestock Breeding and Fisheries are working closely together to prevent H5N1, urging people to follow their instructions on preventing a pandemic.—Photo: Aye Min Soe
The Ministry of Health and the Ministry Livestock Breeding and Fisheries are working closely together to prevent H5N1, urging people to follow their instructions on preventing a pandemic.—Photo: Aye Min Soe

Nay Pyi Taw, 12 March — In an effort to prevent the spread of avian influenza, including the H5N1 strain which can be deadly to humans, the Ministry of Health said Thursday it will increase spending on infection control and monitoring.
The Ministry of Health will increase funding to fight bird flu as much as necessary in order to prevent a pandemic, Dr Soe Lwin Nyein, the Deputy Director-General of the Communicable Diseases Control Department said, quoting the Union minister.
At a recent meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, Union Minister for Health Dr Than Aung gave a green light to increase the funding to fight the infectious disease, urging departments concerned to work more closely with the Health Ministry to monitor and control the H5N1 virus.
The increased expenditure will focus on stockpiling medicines and personal protective equipment, upgrading the national laboratory in Yangon, reinforcing ICU (Intensive Care Units) facilities and monitoring infectious diseases at entrances into Myanmar including border areas, according to the Ministry of Health.
“We totally contained the recent outbreak of bird flu (H5N1), but one of our neighbouring countries, India, is facing an outbreak of swine flu (H1N1),” Dr Soe Lwin Nyein said.
“The combination of these two viruses can cause a pandemic disease.  They can combine only in pigs. So, we looked into recent cases of bird flu to know whether there were piggeries near the chicken farms where bird flu happened.”
The ministry is currently monitoring both Ebola and H1N1 viruses at the same time, he added.
The Ministry of Health has raised the alert levels to prevent the spread of the bird flu virus in the country since the recent outbreak in Monywa, culling more than 1,500 chickens and over 20,000 quails in the area.
Meanwhile, the health ministry is cooperating with the Ministry of Livestock Breeding and Fisheries to emphasize the importance of keeping adequate distance between pigs and chickens being farmed.
The Ministry of Health announced that four workers with fever symptoms from the chicken farms in Monywa were tested after the outbreak, but none were infected with bird flu virus.
The country has seen seven outbreaks of bird flu from 2003 to 2014. Since its first outbreak in 2003, Myanmar has implemented the National Strategic Plan for Prevention and Control of Avian Influenza and Human Influenza Pandemic.
In an outbreak in 2006, a seven-year old girl was infected with H5N1 virus, but human infection was brought under control.
The last outbreak in Myanmar was in 2011 in western Rakhine State.
The World Health Organization is working closely with the Ministry of Health, providing information and technical assistance to control infectious diseases in Myanmar. The ministry has stressed the importance of early reporting of suspected cases of bird flu and human infection.
The WHO says the world must pay attention to the variety and spread of viruses related to avian influenza, from H5N1 to its variants that have emerged in recent years. The disease can affect domestic and farm animals, as well as wild species, raising the possibility of further new strains developing. — GNLM

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