Staff Reporter
Some 148'000 doses of vaccine against 3 types of flu virus are to be distributed in the Balearics as part of a prevention campaign which began yesterday.

Aina Castillo, head of the Islands' Ministry for Health and Consumer Affairs, said that this figure represents an increase of 3 percent in respect of 2003.

The minister explained that the increase is due to the rise in population experienced by the region. She also signalled that the Balearic government will need to spend 533'520 euros to cover the cost of the vaccine which will be administed up until 26 November, the date when the campaign against the flu draws to a close.

The minister for Health insisted on the importance of preventing contagion and urged the Balearic population, especially high risk groups, that they should get vaccinated against two types of flu which last year affected approximately 200 of every 100'000 inhabitants of the Islands. This year's vaccine will help build up the body's defence against a third virus which has recently spread through several countries in Europe.

The high risk groups include people over 65 years of age; adults and children with chronic disease; and health workers and security forces, whose professional contribution to society is considered essential, explained Public Health director, Antoni Pallicer.

Castillo pointed out that the vaccination is free for high risk groups, while the rest of the population is entitled to this preventive measure if they pay 3 euros, approximtaely 40 percent of its cost.

Of the 148'000 doses of vaccination serum, 125'000 will be distributed on Majorca, 13'000 on Ibiza and Formentera dn 10'000 on Minorca.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Health has established a “lookout network” consisting of 32 doctors, who will report cases which emerge at primary health care centres to the Directorate of Public Health.

The watchdog professionals will collect samples which they will send to the Ministry for analysis. This will allow for the spread of the virus to be documented and for scientists to see if the quality of the vaccine distributed throughout the region is effective enough to combat the symptoms of the disease. It will also enable them to observe the way the virus mutates.

Assistant director of the Balearic Health Service (Ib-Salut), Luis Alegre, commented that the region is to prepare itself for a possible increase in demand for hospital beds by providing 85 extra spaces; 35 of them at Son Llatzer in the East of Palma, 25 in the General Hospital and some others at Son Dureta.

He added that neither the World Health Organisation nor the Balearic government were expecting the population to be affected by a particularly strong virus.

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