CLOSER AND wider co-operation, including increased information sharing between the Algarve and Andalucia health authorities, is essential in order to deal with a possible bird flu threat.
These were among the conclusions drawn at a meeting held in Seville, on February 15, between the Administração Regional de Saúde do Algarve and the Conselharia de Saúde da Junta da Andalucia.
Other specialists, including representatives from veterinary and environmental authorities from both regions joined the meeting to debate issues relating to bird flu and other vector-borne illnesses, following an action plan that was drawn up between Portugal and Spain last September.
With the objective of facilitating communication and the exchange of information between the two regions, a working session was held to prepare an adequate response to a flu pandemic alert, marking the beginning of regular co-operation between the two countries.
In the opening session, Spain’s director general of public health, Josefa Ruiza Fernandez emphasised the fact that: “It is very important to anticipate a bird flu pandemic situation.”
During the meeting, various topics were covered relating to trans-frontier inter-exchange during different phases of a pandemic, including the organisation of veterinary vigilance, organisation of epidemiological vigilance, action plans for suspected cases, contacts, as well as response in an emergency.
The considerable increase in humid areas throughout the south of Andalucia that extends to the Algarve coast, led to the development of a comprehensive surveillance programme on the part of the authorities from both regions, which is co-ordinated by the veterinary departments and, to date, no birds have been detected with the H5N1 virus.
At the end of the meeting, it was announced that more meetings would be held between the two countries and it was agreed that they would be staged on a bi-annual basis. The next one is scheduled to take place in October 2007, in the Algarve.
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