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WE CAN FIGHT KILLER FLU.. Government reveals 'doomsday plan' to help victims of virus.


THE Government is preparing a doomsday scenario in the event of a bird flu pandemic in Ireland, it was revealed yesterday.

An expert committee has drawn up more than 100 measures that will be introduced if the virus reaches our shores.

Among them include:

SETTING up field hospitals to deal with casualties, which could top 10,000 dead

QUARANTINING and treating victims in their homes to contain an outbreak, and

DEPLOYING gardai to transport and secure vaccines.

The Government has also ordered one million doses of Tamiflu - the only drug which can effectively treat symptoms and reduce death rates.

The Health Services Executive (HSE) has been will co-ordinating the emergency plan.

Gavin Maguire, head of the National Office for Emergency Planning, said: "We are planning for a doomsday scenario.

"We have to prepare for the worst. But the number of people who could contract pandemic flu, let alone die from it, won't be enough to activate half the measures we are putting in place."

The risk of the H5N1 strain of the bird flu reaching Ireland is currently very low.

Mr Maguire added: "I can understand why people would feel comforted by having a pack of Tamiflu vaccine in the cupboard.

"But there will be enough antivirals for everyone who becomes ill."

Even if bird flu was to arrive it would be impossible to predict its severity.

If a pandemic did occur, meaning over a quarter of the population was affected, non-critically ill patients would be treated in special field hospitals.

Non-emergency surgery will be cancelled to make way for the critically ill and dying who require intensive care.

The Government has also drawn up a list of "key workers" to be given the vaccine first so they could treat the public. The plan has already been praised by Zsuzsanna Jakab, the new head of the European Centre for Disease Control.

He said: "Ireland appears to be among the best prepared countries to deal with a pandemic."

Early next year the HSE will present a breakdown of how much it will cost to resource and implement the bird flu plan.

Last week Ireland received its first sample of the H5N1 virus, as part of a test to see how fast the killer bug could be detected.

William Hall, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said: "The exercise was an outstanding success. The virus was detected in less than seven hours." He added Ireland "is now adequately prepared should an outbreak occur".

Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan said the country's fowl population would be culled if necessary.


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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 14, 2005
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