Prepare for the worst

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Prepare for the worst

After the outbreak of bird flu was discovered in Gimje, North Jeolla, another was reported in Jeongeup, in the same province, raising concerns that the disease is spreading across the country.
Officials in Gimje delayed reporting its mass poultry cull, while epidemic prevention units in North Jeolla wasted time responding to the alert. The unit spent more than a half a day before it reported the case to higher authorities.
But the Agriculture Ministry was the main cause of the delays. The ministry lifted its “special epidemic preventive period” in late February, saying epidemics were unlikely to appear in spring. But memories of the avian flu outbreak in Cheonan last March are still fresh in people’s minds.
Two years ago the whole country was rocked by reports of bird flu here, but preventive measures have hardly changed.
A report on the government’s management of bird flu infections among humans, which was produced by the government’s internal audit board, claims that the Korean government has established only an elementary level prevention plan.
This plan was based on guidelines from the World Health Organization.
In addition, there is no detailed guideline on how to treat possible patients.
In any case, an elementary-level preventive plan hasn’t been established anywhere in Korea.
In truth, bird flu poses little danger to humans, as long as poultry is cooked thoroughly before eating.
But we should be cautious since researchers have not grasped fully how the disease spreads.
Fortunately, no one in Korea has caught bird flu, but it has killed 238 people around the world since 2003. That figure represents 63 percent of the total number of people infected by the disease. This is an alarmingly high death rate.
The best policy on food safety is prevention. After all, there is no guarantee that Korea will remain a safe haven from human infections in the future.
The government should start establishing preventive medical systems in line with international guidelines. It should strengthen its overall medical systems to help contain any outbreaks that may occur.
Above all, it has to ensure sanitation safety for those who take part in the containment operations.
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