[EDITORIALS]Battling epidemicsWhile the outbreaks of a deadly avian influenza continued to spread in Eumseong, North Chungcheong province, it was confirmed that a man in Taiwan was infected with SARS recently. The government issued a warning against epidemics. Since the fatal Fujian flu swept North America and Europe and has spread to Taiwan, it is expected that we will have a difficult time coping with these epidemics this winter. But we already see a danger signal in the government’s disease control policies.
After the bird flu outbreak, chickens and ducks were culled in the area, but the job was done slowly. Many government officials were reluctant to be at the site, fearing that they might contract the disease. Military units did not volunteer for the work; they only helped in isolating the infected area. After criticism mounted, the government ordered the soldiers to cull the animals and government workers were assigned to bury the dead poultry. Success in containing highly contagious disease depends on prompt action, but the government failed to act in a timely way. How can the nation trust our quarantine authorities?
Health officials have already warned that the Fujian flu will soon arrive here. It is even more serious because the influenza vaccine that more than 1.5 million Koreans have received since September is only 50-percent effective against this strain. The World Health Organization wrongly predicted the viruses that would cause outbreaks this winter as Hong Kong B and Panama A types. Although the vaccines are not completely effective, there is no other option at this point but to use them. The government must vaccinate older people and children and strengthen its monitoring and disinfecting efforts at airports, harbors and hospitals.
When Southeast Asian countries were hit by a SARS outbreaks last winter, we successfully prevented the disease from coming into our country, and no one here died. The quarantine authorities must do their best and it is important that everyone is aware of public health. We will win this battle if we maintain a sound and controlled lifestyle.