Take safety measures, public told


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 28 Jan 2004

BY CECIL FUNG AND JASYANTHRI NADARAJA

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia may not have seen any cases of bird flu so far but people are advised to take precautionary measures if the country is to remain free of the virus. 

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said the authorities are monitoring all cases of influenza-like illnesses and there had been no abnormal increase in such cases. 

The Food Quality Control Division of his ministry, he said, was working with the Veterinary Services Department to ensure poultry and poultry products were not imported from affected countries. 

“Our Disease Control Division has also intensified surveillance activities on avian influenza in collaboration with international agencies and the affected countries,” he said at his ministry yesterday. 

Chua reminded the public to adopt precautionary measures to protect themselves from the virus and prevent it from entering the country. 

Among other things, all poultry-based food, including eggs, should be thoroughly cooked as the virus is destroyed by heat. 

People should also be wary of cheap poultry as they might have been smuggled into Malaysia from affected countries, Chua said. 

He advised poultry farm workers to wear protective gear such as masks, gloves, aprons and boots to reduce the risk of contracting the disease, which was transmitted through contact with oral and nasal secretions of infected birds and their droppings. 

“They should practise personal hygiene at all times by washing their hands and bathing with soap and water immediately after working with poultry. 

“Those who experience flu-like symptoms after being in a poultry farm should seek medical attention,” he added. 

Chua said that while the World Health Organisation (WHO) had not recommended travel restrictions to affected countries, travellers to these countries should avoid contact with live animal markets and poultry farms. 

Today, Chua will be in Bangkok to attend an inter-ministerial meeting between the health and agriculture ministers of countries affected by the bird flu, the European Union, the United States, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and WHO to discuss the disease. 

Enforcement has also been stepped up in Perlis to prevent the smuggling of live and frozen poultry from Thailand, IAN MCINTYRE reports from Kangar. 

State Veterinary Services deputy director Dr Tariq Jaafar said more personnel had been sent to the border checkpoints to help screen all cargoes. 

The ban on import of chickens from Thailand, he said, included birds used for cock-fighting or kept as pets. 

“Those staying near the border areas must realise that public health is more important than recreational activities such as cock-fighting,” he said. 

State anti-smuggling unit commander Deputy Supt Hairol Nordin said the unit would step up checks on vehicles carrying livestock. 

Tourism Authority of Thailand Region 1 assistant director Apichai Apanyig said people should not be unduly alarmed by the outbreak in Thailand. 

The outbreak was contained in Suphan Buri province and the Thai government had stopped shipments from affected spots from entering other provinces, especially the southernmost areas of Haadyai and Songkhla, he said. 

Deputy Agriculture Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shariff Omar advised poultry farmers to disinfect their farms every 40 days after each batch of broiler chickens had matured, reports ZARINAH DAUD from Butterworth. 

“It is important for farmers to maintain cleanliness. 

“Farmers are also reminded not to buy chicken as well as eggs from unknown sources,” he said. 

He said that although most of the bird flu outbreaks reported in neighbouring countries involved broilers, it did not mean that other birds would not be affected. 

“Farmers have been told to check the presence of migratory birds, including egrets and terns, because they might be attracted to food in poultry farms,” he said. 

Penang Poultry Farmers Association broiler unit head Ang Poon Heng said all farmers adhered to the strict health regulations imposed by the authorities.  

Related Stories:Governments must come up with preventive measures Local chicken safe for consumption 

Elsewhere in Asia:New defences against bird flu No chicken in Thai markets as bird flu bites Economic ruin if virus mutates Bali plans free chicken feast to placate bird flu fears KFC to offer fish instead of chicken in Vietnam Virus attacking immune system may be behind flu outbreak Thai and Indon govts rattled by cover-up charges Screening and controls raised as bird flu makes leap into China and Laos 

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