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Sinn Féin urges all-Ireland response to flu pandemic threat

16 May, 2005

Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd, has urged the Department of Health in the North to liaise with its counterpart in the Twenty-six Counties in drawing up an effective island wide strategy to deal with threat posed to public health from the outbreak of a potential flu pandemic.

The Upper Bann MLA said:

"Emergency plans are presently being drawn up by the health department to deal with a potential outbreak of bird flu in the North, which experts warn could claim many thousands of lives.

"However, it would be a completely common sense and realistic approach for the Department of Health in the North to liaise and co-operate with the Department of Health and Children in the Twenty-six Counties in order to ensure that an effective all-Ireland strategy is developed and put in place to properly deal with this potential threat to health and public safety.

"I have formally asked the North's direct rule health minister to commence that process and my colleagues in Leinster House will also be calling for the development of action to deal with the threat from a global pandemic on an all-Ireland basis.

"There is a need for urgency in ensuring an island wide preventative strategy and response to this threat because of alerts from the World Health Organisation, which believes that the bird flu sweeping South-East Asia could move into the human population next year. This virus carries a 73 per cent mortality rate, so fast responsive action would need to be taken once the infection appears within Europe. Sars, which hit Asia and Canada last year, revealed how air travel allows infections to cross the world in days if proper measures are not taken.

"Viral and other infections do not respect any land-based boundaries, and the fact that Ireland is an island should add an impetus to the need for developing a joint strategy to cover the whole of the country." ENDS

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