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Taiwan to Monitor Travelers in Effort to Control Bird Flu

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Taiwan is instituting measures to try to prevent a human outbreak of avian influenza on the island. The authorities there now insist that everyone entering Taiwan from parts of Southeast Asia monitor his body temperature for signs of flu.

Starting Monday, anyone arriving here from Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam will be presented with a form to record his or her body temperature twice a day for 10 days.

Since late 2003, the four Southeast countries have reported more than 60 human deaths attributed to the H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Michel Lu, said Friday the government hopes increased vigilance by travelers will reduce the possibility of a human outbreak of the disease on Taiwan.

"Once you come back, (for) 10 days, follow up temperature checkup," he explained. "You should make your checkup after your visit from those Southeast Asian countries because of avian flu. We would like to prevent a so-called outbound invasion."

Taiwan's Health Department says any arriving passenger who does not inform authorities of a fever, and transmits influenza to others will be breaking the law, and will face a fine of up to $470.

Most, or all, of the human victims have caught bird flu by handling infected poultry. But health experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that is easily passed between humans, setting the stage for a possible pandemic that could kill millions of people worldwide.

While taking unilateral steps against the disease, Taiwanese officials complain that China is endangering the island's 23 million citizens, by preventing Taiwanese health officials from participating in the World Health Organization and other organizations concerned with the possible pandemic.

Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province, and contends that it is part of "one China." Taiwan's government says Beijing will only allow private medical experts from Taiwan to participate in the WHO, and only as representatives of "Taipei, China."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu calls that, and China's assertion that it can take care of the health of the population here, an insult to Taiwan's dignity.

"They reiterate that they can take care of our health here. Certainly it is a joke - joke of the century," he said.

The 2003 outbreak of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, respected no borders or political philosophies, and spread around the world, including Taiwan. Since then, the United States has supported Taiwan's bid to join the WHO, despite Beijing's opposition.

 

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