THE first consignment of vaccine designed to treat hypothetical cases of the bird flu in humans on the Balearic Islands, be they residents or visitors, is due to arrive any day, sent post haste at the end of last week from the central government ministry of Health. The delivery will consist of some 50 doses of Tamiflu which will be split 25-25 between the Balearic Health Service (IB-Salut) and the Central Government Delegation in the Balearics. The apportionment is a state decision, not approved of by the regional Balearic government.
After a meeting of the Islands' Bird Flu Committee yesterday, health director Antoni Pellicer explained that the vaccines are made up of 75 miligrammes of Tamiflu, the use of which is prescribed as much for the prevention of the disease as it is for treatment. He also announced that at the beginning of the summer, a further 42'000 doses of the drug will arrive on the Balearics. The supply, which will be increased to 126'000 throughout 2007, is part of the region's plan to stave off a possible pandemic, should the bird flu virus mutate to the point where it is passed easily from one human being to another, causing a global pandemic. According to Pellicer, the Tamiflu treatment, which will be kept under lock and key by appropriate authorities, will be used in the event of a “suspect case” of the disease emerging in the Islands. Added to the medical strategy adopted by central government Health ministry, there are also plans afoot to keep a close control on visitors to the country coming from China, Cambodia, Iraq, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. Meanwhile, the Balearic government is satisfied that the 126'000 doses of Tamiflu which have been allocated to the region will be sufficient to “keep the bird flu at bay” in whatever eventuality may arise. As a back-up, central government has set aside in seven-kilo storage tanks another 130'000 sets of vaccine for the Balearics to be dispensed “when necessary”, confirmed Pellicer. The director added that some 314 tests for bird flu had been carried out on birds in the Islands, all of which have proved negative even though a number are still waiting final analysis at mainland laboratories. Of the tests made, 218 were carried out on domestic fowl and the rest on wild birds.
Agriculture director Joan Carles Torrens, said that the sale of bird meat, whether chicken or other fowl, had been hit by the scare over bird flu up to the point where the decline in public buying had been registered at between 10 and 15 percent. “The more the news about bird flu spreads, so does the concern over eating chicken and the commensurate troubles for the farmed fowl industry,” Torrens said. He added that one way of combatting unnecessary fear of the disease was to give the public as much information as possible so that only hard facts, as opposed to scaremongering, would be up for consideration.