Government purchases bird flu medicine

APPROVAL HAS been given by the Portuguese government for the Ministry for Health to spend 22.5 million euros over two years on medicine to treat bird flu – 7.7 million euros of which will be spent this year.

The action is seen as being pre-emptive, meaning that Portugal would be prepared should the worst case scenario become a reality and, according to the Minister for Health, Correia de Campos, the medicine being purchased is enough to cover 25 per cent of the country’s population.

The minister highlighted that there isn’t any risk to public health at the present moment, but guaranteed that the Ministry for Health has chosen the most effective anti-viral medicine against the existing strains. “It is important to be prepared. The likelihood of a pandemic is remote, but the risk exists,” emphasised Correia de Campos.

Up until now, around 1,000 poultry farmers have had their birds subjected to systematic analyses but, to date, all the results have been negative. A vigilance system, which comes under the responsibility of the Direcção-Geral de Veterinária, the central veterinary bureau, is facilitating constant checks for subtypes H5 and H7 of the bird flu virus.

And, to avoid other sources of contamination, the authorities will intensify its sampling of migratory aquatic bird species, which have already been identified as possible sources of transmission and dissemination of the disease.

For these controls to be carried out, the national authorities are maintaining security at the borders, in order to ensure that all importation of birds and poultry products, from countries where the disease has already been identified, is prevented.

In any case, the Agência Portuguesa de Segurança Alimentar (APSA), the Portuguese food safety agency, continues to guarantee that there is no danger of contamination through the consumption of chicken, turkey, and so on. “Up until now, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that it is possible for the virus to be transmitted through digesting cooked food,” highlights APSA. Experiments have shown that the virus cannot survive at temperatures above 70 degrees.


The risk of a bird flu pandemic continues to concern the authorities. The United Nation’s division for matters relating to food and agriculture considers that 80 million euros is needed to stop the virus and provide aid for those countries that are affected. The bird flu virus has already killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003 and more than 140 million birds have died or been killed in order to put a halt to the deadly bug.

• Also read Dr.Kaiser’s article on p.22