CENTRAL AMERICA PLANS FOR AVIAN FLU PANDEMIC.Agriculture ministers of the region met in Guatemala on Oct. 28 to plan strategies to deal with an eventual outbreak of avian flu avian flu: see influenza. . The disease is not present in Central America Central America, narrow, southernmost region (c.202,200 sq mi/523,698 sq km) of North America, linked to South America at Colombia. It separates the Caribbean from the Pacific. at this time, at least not in its most virulent form, the H5N1 strain. Agreeing that no single country can prevent an outbreak, ministers from Belize, Costa Rica Costa Rica (kŏs`tə rē`kə), officially Republic of Costa Rica, republic (2005 est. pop. 4,016,000), 19,575 sq mi (50,700 sq km), Central America. , the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama worked toward an integrated plan.
The ministers also sought to keep the public from panicking in light of the potential for havoc the disease represents. "We want to call on the public for calm; no country in the area has avian flu. We have quarantine [facilities] at all our borders and airports," said Alvaro Aguilar, Guatemala's agriculture minister.
Having spread now from Asia to Eastern Europe and beyond, the disease produced by H5N1 easily qualifies as a pandemic pandemic /pan·dem·ic/ (pan-dem´ik)
1. a widespread epidemic of a disease.
2. widely epidemic.
Epidemic over a wide geographic area.
n. . It has evolved by mutation the capability to jump from birds to humans, and, when it does, it kills 50% of the people it infects.
The ministers want money. Costa Rica wants money to hire specialists and improve controls. El Salvador's minister wants money to vaccinate vac·ci·nate
To inoculate with a vaccine in order to produce immunity to an infectious disease such as diphtheria or typhus.
vac birds. "In El Salvador we vaccinate 56 million birds annually and that costs us US$5 million. Now we are budgeting US$60,000 more to enforce inspection in ports, airports, and migratory bird habitats," said Minister Mario Salaverria. He said the possibility that avian flu will be brought to the region by some passing bird is remote, "but we can't ignore it."
Central America has also suspended imports of poultry products from infected areas, and the ministers are projecting a sense of confidence based on prior experience with other diseases. "We have had foot-and-mouth disease foot-and-mouth disease, highly contagious disease almost exclusive to cattle, sheep, swine, goats, and other cloven-hoofed animals. It is caused by a virus that was identified in 1897. [in cattle] in Latin America for some 50 years, and our region has remained free of the disease, thanks to the controls we have," said Costa Rica's Agriculture Minister Rodolfo Coto.
In addition to restricting imports from affected areas, Costa Rica has stepped up scrutiny of importers who lack up-to-date import permits and reinforced its quarantine posts, where birds and poultry products are subjected to rigorous inspections and laboratory testing. On the borders, vehicles transporting poultry are disinfected Disinfected
Decreased the number of microorganisms on or in an object.
Mentioned in: Isolation .
Director of animal health for the Costa Rican Ministry of Agriculture and Cattle Alexis Sandi said, "For several years Costa Rica has been prepared to avoid the effects of avian flu. We have taken all possible biosecurity measures to prevent its entry." And if the disease does come, he added, "our professional teams are ready to attend immediately to any outbreak."
Sandi, like the ministers at the meeting in Guatemala, took care to reassure the public that at present there is no avian flu in the country and said that "investigation, training, and prevention gives us that assurance, and we can affirm that in Costa Rica consumption and handling of poultry products does not represent any risk to human health."
In El Salvador, Oscar Gutierrez, executive director of the Organismo Internacional Regional de Sanidad Agropecuaria (OIRSA OIRSA Organismo Internacional Regional de Sanidad Agropecuaria (Guatemala) ), called for doubling border controls. "The border authorities must be alert for any movement of birds and animals that does not seem to pose a risk, like circuses, which bring birds for their presentations."
Gutierrez said he wants quarantine facilities and diagnostic capability on the borders. He said there is a bird-flu strain in the region, but it is much less dangerous than the H5N1. "We believe that in the American area there is a totally different strain, but that eventually it, too, could undergo a mutation," said Gutierrez. "The governments are alert to this situation through epidemiological vigilance and will be able to detect any outbreak."
Gutierrez was referring to a strain that has been making its way north from Colombia, and his words, like those of the others, were meant to reassure the populace.
Amid the protestations of preparedness and calm assurances, Salvadoran officials have said that, in addition to the meeting of agricultural ministers in Guatemala, the avian-flu threat would be taken up at a Nov. 11 international meeting on HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome , and a separate commission for pandemic preparedness would be formed with representation from regional Ministries of Agriculture, Governance, and Defense, the Comision Ejecutiva Portuaria Autonoma (CEPA CEPA Canadian Environmental Protection Act
CEPA Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (Mainland China-Hong Kong)
CEPA Canadian Energy Pipeline Association
CEPA Comisión Ejecutiva Portuaria Autónoma ), the Asociacion Nacional de la Empresa Privada (ANEP ANEP Asociación Nacional de la Empresa Privada (Spanish: National Association of Small Enterprise, El Salvador)
ANEP Active Network Encapsulation Protocol
ANEP Allied Naval Engineering Publication
ANEP Association of Northwest Environmental Professionals ), and others.
With all the inspection activities at the borders and the vaccination of domestic fowl, it is still the case that birds fly. The Salvadoran Ministry of Environment says 97 species of migratory birds regularly visit El Salvador, 11 kinds of ducks alone.
The pig factor
And there are pigs. Much of the prevention activity is aimed at controlling H5N1, as well as the less aggressive H5, H6, H7, and H9, that would save the aviculture aviculture
the rearing of birds, usually caged birds. industry, but the real threat is to human life. Epidemiologist Jorge Panameno said that the pig is the agent that can combine pathogens that would infect humans in a way that people could then pass the disease among themselves. "The pig is able to get human and avian flu," he said. "Both viruses can combine within the pig and it can transmit the disease to people who work with pigs on farms, through respiration or secretions." Panameno said he believes it will be the pig, if not in the Americas then in Asia, that will provide the means for the deadly virus to mutate mu·tate
intr. & tr.v. mu·tat·ed, mu·tat·ing, mu·tates
To undergo or cause to undergo mutation.
[Latin m to a form transmissible transmissible /trans·mis·si·ble/ (trans-mis´i-b'l) capable of being transmitted.
Capable of being conveyed from one person to another. between humans.
Once that happens, whether by pig or other vector, the region's problem becomes as much economic as epidemiological. In the US, President George W. Bush outlined a plan to deal with such an epidemic in the world's most powerful country, and, even there, estimates are that the costs would be enormous, the logistics daunting daunt
tr.v. daunt·ed, daunt·ing, daunts
To abate the courage of; discourage. See Synonyms at dismay.
[Middle English daunten, from Old French danter, from Latin . Bush estimated that as many as 1.9 million people in the US would die, that 40% of school-age children would be infected, and that health costs would amount to US$181 billion, not counting disruption to the economy.
Can't look to the US
Bush outlined a US$7.1 billion plan to prepare for an H5N1 pandemic. The plan included ginning up a vaccine industry that could immunize im·mu·nize
1. To render immune.
2. To produce immunity in, as by inoculation.
im the entire population at a cost of billions but that would take years to implement and US$2.8 billion to initiate. In the meantime Adv. 1. in the meantime - during the intervening time; "meanwhile I will not think about the problem"; "meantime he was attentive to his other interests"; "in the meantime the police were notified"
meantime, meanwhile , he called for stockpiling scarce anti-flu drugs and available vaccines, and he wants ill-prepared states, some of which are already struggling with deficient budgets, to bear a major portion of the costs.
Bush wants to spend US$1.2 billion on stockpiles just to protect 20 million health workers and other first responders against H5N1 and another billion on the drugs Tamiflu and Relenza to treat about 44 million people. US$251 million would be spent on early warning systems to spot flu strains before they reach the US and US$100 billion for state preparation for delivery of stockpiled medications to populations. US$56 million would be spent on testing wild and domesticated do·mes·ti·cate
tr.v. do·mes·ti·cat·ed, do·mes·ti·cat·ing, do·mes·ti·cates
1. To cause to feel comfortable at home; make domestic.
2. To adopt or make fit for domestic use or life.
Bush also wants the Congress to enact legislation protecting drug and vaccine makers from liability if their untested and experimental products kill or injure patients. Buried deep in the plan is a contingency by which troops could be used to keep citizens exposed or infected from leaving blighted areas.
Just one day after Bush's announcement, his plan was being bashed from all sides as being inadequate, too expensive, too risky, etc. If the degree of mobilization of resources necessary to deal with an outbreak of deadly flu is difficult for even the US to muster, then Central America has little chance of duplicating the effort or benefiting from it. [Sources: The Calgary Herald (Canada), 09/04/05; The Edmonton Journal (Canada), 09/06/05; Diario de Hoy (El Salvador), 10/19/05, 10/20/05; Notimex, 10/25/05; BBC BBC
in full British Broadcasting Corp.
Publicly financed broadcasting system in Britain. A private company at its founding in 1922, it was replaced by a public corporation under royal charter in 1927. News, 10/28/05; Associated Press, 10/29/05; The Washington Post, 11/02/05]