PUTRAJAYA: The Government is leaving no stone unturned to prevent an outbreak of the avian flu.
In this context, it wants to tackle the problem at source and has asked farmers to report to the authorities any deaths of poultry.
It has also stockpiled medication and flu vaccine in case there is a need to vaccinate and treat the people.
Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said farmers who reported any poultry deaths would be compensated.
The compensation is part of measures to prevent an outbreak of the avian flu following a World Health Organisation alert of emerging cases in some Asean countries, including Indonesia and Thailand.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek on the setting-up of a joint panel to tackle avian flu, Muhyiddin said such early reporting would enable the Government to arrest any situation immediately.
Many breeders, including those in the villages, are afraid that if they report the deaths of the birds, their poultry will be taken away and their remaining flock culled.
This may lead to them keeping quiet, Dr Chua said.
We want to assure them that if they come forward and report the deaths, and if the cases are found to be avian flu, the Government will compensate them.
This is part of our contingency plans to prepare for any eventualities, he said, adding that there would be no limit to the compensation.
When the avian flu was detected in Kelantan last year, the Government paid out some RM250,000 in compensation to 933 small-time breeders and villagers.
The cost to contain the outbreak came up to RM5mil.
The anti-bird flu strategies include planning and mobilising human and financial resources, and obtaining medical equipment and protective gear.
The Government has designated 21 hospitals to care for patients, as well as centres such as the Institute for Medical Research to carry out tests.
Muhyiddin said police, Customs and Immigration officers would continue to step up checks on the import of poultry and birds.
We also discussed the possibility of levying heavier penalties on smuggling, he said, adding that the plan was awaiting Cabinet approval.
The plan will also include education and awareness campaigns to inform villagers and breeders of the dangers of avian flu, he said.
Dr Chua said his ministry had set up its own committee to deal with any outbreak and staff had been asked to be on the lookout for those suspected to have the virus.
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