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Workers in poultry industry urged to take up free flu vaccine

2 November, 2005

Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has urged all those working in the poultry industry to ensure that they receive the free flu vaccine, which will be provided for them by the Health Service Executive. This initiative has been taken primarily to prevent people from being infected with the seasonal flu virus and the avian flu virus at the same time. Such double infections can lead to mutations and a flu pandemic, affecting humans on a wide scale.

All Health Service Executive areas were instructed on Monday 31 October by the Assistant National Director of Population Health, Dr. Kevin Kelleher, to actively offer all poultry workers the flu vaccine as an urgent public health measure. The vaccine is available from GPs who will be reimbursed by the HSE for supplying the vaccine free. HSE regions with high concentrations of poultry workers, such as in Cavan and Monaghan, have been instructed to consider establishing local clinics in high-density poultry areas.

Urging a full take-up of the vaccine, Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "The decision of the HSE to offer the flu vaccine free of charge to all poultry workers is a welcome and essential public health measure. Having been briefed by the Department of Health and Children on the dangers of an avian flu pandemic, I can assure people that this is no false alarm. There is a real risk that the human population could yet be severely effected.

"The comprehensive immunisation of those working in the poultry sector is essential in order to help prevent the development of a mutant virus which would then trigger a human flu pandemic. This can happen if someone suffering from the human form of the virus contracts the avian variety at the same time.

"I urge all poultry workers to take up the vaccine as soon as possible. The HSE needs to ensure maximum publicity for this scheme an full accessibility." ENDS

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