Anti-virus arsenal urged against new flu epidemic

14th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

14 February 2005, AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government should have a supply of five million doses of the anti-virus drug Tamiflu in the event of a global epidemic of a new influenza variant, the Health Council warned on Monday.

14 February 2005

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government should have a supply of five million doses of the anti-virus drug Tamiflu in the event of a global epidemic of a new influenza variant, the Health Council warned on Monday.

The council advised Health Minister Hans Hoogervoorst further that if a global epidemic reached the Netherlands, 30 percent of the population could become sick.

Outbreaks of the flu are reasonably frequent, but the council is primarily concerned with pandemic influenza. This entails unpredictable, worldwide epidemics cause by a new flu virus.

The Netherlands currently has 225,000 doses of Tamiflu. This is due in part to the Health Ministry purchase of extra supplies — partly in raw materials — after the outbreak of the avian bird flu in the Netherlands in 2003 

The bird flu virus ravaged the Dutch poultry industry, prompting Agriculture Minister Cees Veerman to slaughter 25 million birds in a preventative cull. More than 1,000 people were also found to have been infected by the virus.

Meanwhile, the health council claims that the development of a new vaccine would take too long in the event of a global outbreak of a new flu variant. It said the government should ensure there is sufficient medicine in storage to tackle the spread of the virus.

A co-author of the report and emeritus professor of virology, Jan van der Noordaa, said it was almost 100 percent certain that an outbreak of a new flu virus will occur, news service NOS reported.

In that case, patients must be administered with the anti-virus remedy within two days of becoming ill. And to halt the spread of the virus, family of the infected patients should also be administered with Tamiflu.

But an investment of EUR 40 million is necessary to ensure the Netherlands has five million doses in stock. The use of Tamiflu — a brand name for the drug oseltamivir — will shorten the period of flu and makes the illness less infectious.

But in a large-scale outbreak, the council said that administering healthy people with Tamiflu would prove ineffective. It said people would not build up resistance and could still become sick at a later stage. Only health professionals and the elderly should be administered Tamiflu as a preventative remedy.

The council's report was prompted by the outbreak of bird flu in Asia. Should the virus spread to humans, the spread of the disease would be difficult to combat. Several deaths have already been reported in the Asian outbreak.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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