TamilWeek Feb 19, 2006
Lanka on alert to fight bird flu

by Rajmi Manatunga

With India confirming its first bird flu infection, health
authorities yesterday pledged to take aggressive measures to
prevent the deadly virus from affecting Sri Lanka.

Health Ministry Epidemiology Unit Director Dr. Nihal
Abeysinghe told the Daily News that they were strengthening
their plans to block the virus from entering the country and to
detect it at the earliest possible time in the event of an

Health authorities requested the public to take all hygienic
measures including washing and sterilising in consuming
poultry products.

"We advise the public not to bring poultry products from India
and we request people who have visited agricultural areas in
India to report immediately to health authorities since the virus
could spread from many ways other than the consumption of

"Whether Sri Lanka will be affected by the virus will depend on
how soon India is able to contain it. Every country affected by
bird flu has tried to contain it within that particular locality and
even small countries like Cambodia were able to do it.
However, the Ministry has taken all precautionary measures to
ensure that the virus does not spread to Sri Lanka,"
Abeysinghe said.

Abeysinghe said that the Health Department was carrying out
surveillance in all areas and discussed with hospital
authorities on providing isolation and intensive care facilities
during an outbreak. The World Bank has also pledged
financial assistance to equip the Angoda IDH with the latest

The Government has already stopped the import of poultry
products and pet birds from countries affected by the virus
while a stock of the anti Avian flu drug, Tamiflu sufficient for
treating 1,000 infected persons have been brought down from
the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to the Health Ministry, health officials have also
been sent to Hong Kong to be trained in the use of new
technology in surveillance. Health officials in all parts of the
country will be given a special training once they return to the

Meanwhile, Agriculture and Livestock Department Director Dr.
S. Amarasekere said that there is a 'high risk' of the H5N1 bird
flu virus spreading to Sri Lanka from India since most of the
migrating birds in Sri Lanka come from the Western parts of

"The Government will have to focus on carrying out
researches and take preventive measures. But the preventive
measures we can take are very limited because even though
we have cancelled permits to import poultry there is no active
surveillance of wild birds," he said.
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