Taiwan braces for swine flu26th May 2009
Authorities in Taiwan are bracing for a potential epidemic of swine flu in the autumn, although the current outbreak is expected to stabilise soon.
The island's health minister said the outbreak of influenza A (H1N1) would be brought under control by the end of June, although a projected 20,000 deaths could potentially occur on the island, which has been under de facto independent rule since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
Yeh Ching-chuan told legislators at a social welfare committee meeting that the government had ordered six tonnes of shikimic acid, a key ingredient to produce Tamiflu, a front-line medication in the fight against the virus.
Taiwan would be able to produce one tonne of Tamiflu for use by one million of the island's 20-million people, Yeh said.
He added that the government would also procure 10 million doses of vaccine against the A(H1N1) flu.
The government would source 2.5 million doses of swine flu vaccine from foreign pharmaceutical manufacturers.
If necessary, it would also contract local companies to produce the other 7.5 million doses, he said.
The government has scheduled a vaccination programme to get under way in October, should the need arise.
Called to address the committee on Taiwan's recent participation in the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, and to describe the government's measures against swine flu, Yeh forecast a second wave of outbreaks later in the year.
Taiwan is frequently barred from full membership in international bodies, with its acceptance as a sovereign state routinely blocked by Beijing.
Yeh said the alert level could remain as low as yellow, a second-stage warning which indicates that only imported cases have been found so far.
With a global mortality rate of 0.7% found around the world so far, swine flu could potentially cause the deaths of 20,000 Taiwanese, he added.
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