France prepares for the arrival of bird flu

12th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 11, 2006 (AFP) - Health Minister Xavier Bertrand on Wednesday presented an updated plan to tackle any flu pandemic in France, with massive stockpiles of antiviral drugs and face masks at the core of national preparedness.

PARIS, Jan 11, 2006 (AFP) - Health Minister Xavier Bertrand on Wednesday presented an updated plan to tackle any flu pandemic in France, with massive stockpiles of antiviral drugs and face masks at the core of national preparedness.

Reserves of the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, which stand at around 14 million courses today, will rise to 33 million in 2007 for a population of 60 million, he told lawmakers.

The stockpile will be released for free to doctors and hospitals if the H5N1 strain of bird flu mutates into a form that makes it transmissible between humans, he said.

By the end of 2006, a billion facemasks will be available for distribution to the general public, to discourage the spread of virus-laden droplets by coughing and sneezing.

Bertrand, pointing to initiatives announced in recent months, said 200 million professional-quality facemasks would also being stockpiled for use by health workers likely to be in close proximity to flu-infected patients.

In addition, France had placed advance orders for 40 million doses for a future vaccine against the feared strain. The vaccine cannot be developed until the mutated strain emerges.

Antivirals and facemasks will be available for French nationals abroad, via their local embassy.

France's action plan puts the emphasis on treatment at home by the family doctor, leaving hospitals to handle life-threatening cases.

"Recent events in Turkey show that the threat (of a flu pandemic) has to be taken most seriously," Bertrand said.

Fifteen people have been detected with bird flu in Turkey, on Europe's southeastern rim, two of whom have died.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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