WHO not issuing travel advisories


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 18 Dec 2003

By SUSAN TAM

PETALING JAYA: There are no plans to issue travel advisories to countries hit by the Fujian flu due to better understanding on control measures to tackle this strain of influenza. 

World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative for Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and Singapore officer-in-charge Dr Sigrun Roesel said the organisation maintained strict monitoring of influenza outbreaks affecting countries that face the winter season but advisories were not being issued presently. 

Comparing the situation with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak where advisories were issued for countries such as Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Singapore, she said the present strain of influenza was better understood in terms of its behaviour patterns and vaccination procedures. 

“To issue travel advisories is a serious measure and needed the consultation of various experts, WHO’s country offices and national authorities. 

“In the case of SARS, we were dealing with the unknown at the time, we were unsure of its epidemiological patterns and control measures because it was a new virus,” she said yesterday. 

Dr Roesel was commenting on whether there was a need for travel advisories for people going to countries affected by the Fujian flu. It was reported that the flu virus was sweeping the United States and Europe.  

Dr Roesel said experts were also unsure of the spread of SARS at that time, whether it was airborne or transmitted through direct contact only. 

She said the Fujian flu was better understood as influenza had been occurring for decades and the composition of vaccines were constantly updated.  

Asked if the flu was not as “dangerous” as SARS, Dr Sigrun said the two were different viruses and it would be difficult to make that assumption. 

She said the people should not panic, adding that those in the higher risk groups should get vaccination if they had plans to travel to the affected areas. 

The high-risk groups were made up of those above 65 years and those suffering from chronic lung disease or immune-deficiency, such as those living with HIV/AIDS and cancer patients. 

Among the symptoms of the Fujian flu are fever, headache, fatigue, sore throat and nasal congestion.  

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