Editorial: Avian flu

It may be too soon to stockpile for Avian Flu medicines but not too late to educate the population to prevent or avoid an epidemic in the city.

A letter from a sales representative of a sales company offering the City “the opportunity to stockpile at discounted price an antiviral drug Fluvir/Oseltamavir which is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an effective treatment for avian influenza .” because, “Furthermore, our research tell us that there are no available stock piles of the antiviral drug Oseltamavir in the Philippines, which is recognized by the WHO as an effective treatment for avian influenza, H5N1.”

The City Council acted on it and is now a resolution awaiting the City Mayor’s approval.

Basically it approves the disbursement of two million pesos to buy the above drug and stockpile it as part of the anti-avian flu campaign (which is worldwide and led by WHO) in Baguio City.

On WHO’s website as of 17 March on the “advice on use of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) is recommended for use for both treatment and prophylaxis of influenza.”

The evidence for effectiveness of oseltamivir in human H5N1 disease is based on virological data from in vitro, animal models, and limited human studies and extrapolation from the results of trials in patients with ordinary human influenza. There is no direct clinical trial evidence that shows that oseltamivir is effective in human H5N1 disease because such studies have not yet been conducted. Without such trials, the optimal dose and duration of oseltamivir treatment is uncertain in H5N1. (emphasis supplied) The evidence for effectiveness of oseltamivir for prophylaxis of H5N1 disease is based on the results of trials of preventing ordinary influenza in healthy and elderly patients and children”.

The drug is recognized as an effective treatment for ordinary influenza not avian flu. Why can’t it just be made more available and less expensive for the greater population instead of being stock piled in the name of the population and then identified for the use or those because of their jobs are highly exposed to an epidemic not-yet-in-the-immediate future?

The Philippines has been declared by both the government (Department of Health and Department of Agriculture) and the World Health Organization as Avian Flu free. So much so that the campaign against avian flu in the Philippines is more for preventing the H5N1 virus from entering and infecting the fowl or avian population in the country and also the Human population.

Avian flu is a bird or fowl disease as the phrase says. While the virus only infects the birds it is dangerous to people when this virus mutates and is able to infect larger animals or mammals like pigs and man. This virus shows its ugly head from time to time in history, it is its time to show now but not in the Philippines. In a seminar for Journalists on Avian Flu, resource persons from the DOH and DA underscored and emphasized this told us that a vaccine for the H5N1 virus can only be developed when the infection is already there.

WHO has already made stations for monitoring, for developing and a distribution network of the medicimes for mass manufacture when there is an eminent outbreak in the different subregions globally. What the DOH, DA and WHO is doing right now is the campaign to prevent the spreading of the virus from fowl to human and from one human to another. Basically their campaign is an education campaign on cleanliness, sanitation, good nutrition and good “coughing or sneezing” manners.

In this light, it may be more prudent, economical, and intelligent to spend the people’s money on a more popular education campaign in the City against bird flu. The people of Baguio may even be more appreciative of their leaders if they put up funds to subsidize the flu medicines (against H1 and H2 virus) for our very young and our senior citizens. This may even yet save fragile reputations from being suspect of graft and corruption. #

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