by Medindia Content Team on  August 22, 2006 at 11:11 AM Bird Flu News
Influenza Guidelines of Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong applauded by experts
As the world prepares to fight the possible influenza pandemic, public health experts to share the limited antiviral drugs and vaccines with poorer countries in Asia have called on wealthier nations.

Richard Coker and Sandra Mounier-Jack of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine published an article in The Lancet on August 22. They have cautioned that poorer nations may not share important information and may not cooperate with the rest of the nations unless there is a fair distribution of drugs.

"If this (equitable drug distribution) were to prove unattainable, some have warned of a potential risk that poor countries in the region would be reluctant to cooperate with the international community, eg. by providing information to assist with disease surveillance, or isolates of the virus to facilitate vaccine development and production," the experts wrote.

They evaluated national influenza preparedness plans of some countries in Asia and compared them with those of Europe and then made their proposal.

They praised Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong for their "detailed guidance manuals" to manage such a disaster, and called on Thailand, China and Vietnam to follow suit.

The experts said that though the latter 3 countries are creating capacity to identify and take action against the disease, operational guides giving details about implementation and management of available resources should accompany these plans.

"A pandemic might not wait until capacity is developed. These operational guides would need to be modified as capacity grows," they said.

Same failings were found in the contingency plans in Europe and Asia.

"Most plans did not adequately address operational responsibility at the local level; logistical aspects of vaccination and antiviral stockpiling, distribution and delivery; or the maintenance of essential services," they said.

The report has recommended regional institutions in Asia, like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to develop regional contingencies, because the public health threat is a "transnational" one.

Increasing apprehensions about monetary promises to help the poorer countries fight influenza pandemic, has also been highlighted in their report. It seems that major portion of the fund "would be made available as loans rather than grants and that tangible benefits to populations in the region would not be certain".

"The slow pace of disbursement of funding has also been criticized," they wrote.

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