Step up efforts to fight bird flu--a global problem.
DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong Dr Tan Seng Giaw calls on the Government to cooperate more actively with other countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and China to combat the global spread of avian influenza, H5N1 virus.
Dr Tan asks the Agriculture and Agri-based Industry Minister Tan Sri Dato' Haji Muhyddin Bin Haji Mohd. Yassin about his efforts to investigate the ecology and cooperation with other countries to combat avian flu. During the debate on an emergency motion by Ipoh Barat M.P. M Kula, the Minster and Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek elucidated on the measures taken by both ministries to contain the outbreak of the disease among birds in Gombak, Selangor, Bukit Merah, Taiping, Perak, and Kepala Batas, Penang.
Malaysia has had experience in combatting viral epidemic such as Nipah. But, we must be more efficient. For example, the Nipah virus should have been named Ampang virus because it began in Ampang, Perak, brought there by flying foxes. Once the virus caused death in a man from Tambun, the authorities did not take drastic action, allowing infected pigs to be transported to Negeri Sembilan incuoding Nipah.
Now, H5N1 has been discovered in Gombak, Bukit Merah and Kepala Batas. Last year, it hit Tumpat, Kelantan. Where did it come from? Genetic sequencing showed that the virus in Gombak was similar to the strain in Indonesia, whereas that in Tumpat was similar to the strain in Thailand. Could the virus originate from fighting cocks smuggled into the country?
We hope that Agriculture and Health Ministries will improve their coordination, and that Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment be roped in because migratory birds are responsible for the spread of the virus to over 40 countries in the world.
As the Health Minister has said, there is no human infection. There are 21 hospitals that can receive H5N1 patients, if the virus spreads to humans. We hope that this will never happen.
Besides current preventive measures including the culling of birds in and around affected areas, we require long-term methods such as the further understanding of ecology, vaccine and cooperation with other countries. We need multinational efforts to combat this global problem.