The government of the southeastern Brazilian state of São Paulo announced Tuesday, October 25, the creation of a task force to prevent an Asian bird flu pandemic. This measure is one of a series of precautions taken in conjunction with Brazil’s Ministry of Health and announced by governor Geraldo Alckmin after their first work session.
An emergency committee was established to keep the disease from reaching the state. The immediate steps include the training of professional staff from research institutes and the health sector.
The number of hospitals that will function as watchdogs for the virus will be increased from two to four by the end of the year. These hospitals will be able to develop research and studies involving individuals who contract any type of flu.
To carry out these studies, the first influenza virus research laboratory in Latin America is being constructed, together with a vaccine factory, at the Butantã Institute. The funds are from the Ministry of Health.
According to Carlos Magno Fortaleza, coordinator of Disease Control in the state department of Health, there is no record of any case of contamination in Brazil, but there are two possible routes by which the flu could arrive: through the migration of wild birds, particularly aquatic fowl, or through infected foreigners entering the country, in case the virus acquires the capacity for transmission between humans.
He explained that since the period of the Asian flu, in 2003, the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) has maintained controls in ports and airports and on the country’s borders.
"Some measures of intensification should be determined by the agency in the near future. The risk at present is very low, but the risk of future transmission between humans may be very high; thus, the need for prevention," the coordinator added.