14 January, 2006
Greece is fully prepared and has taken all measures for protection against bird flu, the government said on Friday in an announcement put out by the health ministry and in statements made by Agriculture Minister Evangelos Basiakos after a meeting with ministry officials.
In a press conference at the foreign ministry, meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis also presented plans for a campaign to promote Greek poultry products abroad, in a bid to offset anticipated damage to the industry from a possible bird flu scare, as well as additional measures for government support of the industry.
The meeting at the agriculture ministry, attended by the ministry's leadership, interior ministry general secretary Athanasios Vezyrgiannis and representatives of the Greek prefectures union ENAE, found that the country had adequate staff and resources to deal with the situation.
Basiakos said that the additional needs posed by the threat of a bird flu epidemic were fully covered with the recruitment of 373 additional veterinarians and other technicians, as well as 100 additional veterinarians hired by state veterinary laboratories.
He noted that matters concerning resources and supplies were chiefly dealt with on a prefecture level, while the supply of equipment and vehicles was the responsibility of the various ministries involved.
The minister also underlined that declaring the disease was mandatory, and that even suspicions of an incidence of bird flu should be reported to veterinary services.
Anti-bird-flu measures have also been stepped up in the Evros prefecture, which shares a border with Turkey, with veterinary services on high alert and strict controls at customs.
Evros Prefect Nikolaos Zabounidis has ordered that all domestic fowl should be kept in fully enclosed facilities to prevent any contact with wild birds. He has also banned and imposed stiff penalties on the transport and distribution of live poultry of any type for domestic breeding or the sale of live poultry in markets.
The health ministry, meanwhile, stressed that the public should not fear any shortage of anti-viral medication used to treat cases of bird flu.
"There are 200,000 boxes of the anti-viral drug Simetrel ready to be delivered, which correspond to 400,000 doses of therapy.
"With regard to the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, an order has been placed for 450,000 doses. Of these, 250 kilos are in raw material (powder form) and 200,000 doses in pill form that will be delivered in two installments, the first in May 2006 and the second in September this year," the announcement said.
The ministry said it was also considering placing an order for an additional 300,000 boxes of Tamiflu.
The EU health ministers' council has decided to create a central stockpile of anti-viral medication used against bird flu to cover needs that might arise in every EU member-state, the announcement added.
It also noted that anti-flu vaccines administered in 2005 came to 1.8 million doses, instead of the 900,000 normally administered each year, and that the government planned to prepare 3-3.5 million anti-flu doses in 2006. An order for the preparation of 1.8 million doses of vaccine has been placed with the Pasteur Institute by the National Drugs Organization (EOF), in addition to independent orders made each year for the purchase of vaccines.
Source: Athens News Agency