12 Oct 2006

Fiji warned about bird flu risks

1:55 pm on 12 October 2006

Fiji has been warned that if the Bird Flu virus hits the country, it could kill 5,000 people.

The Fiji Sun reports that the warning has been given by the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Specialist at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Dr Narendra Singh.

Dr Singh says Fiji could be headed for a pandemic that could affect about 240,000 people of whom 12,500 could be hospitalised and thousands killed.

Dr Singh note that Fiji encountered such a pandemic in 1918 when an influenza epidemic killed 9,000 people or about five percent of the total population.

He says bird flu is already prevalent in Indonesia, has reached parts of the Pacific and could reach Fiji.

Dr Singh says bird flu could be transmitted to human beings from fowls and also from one human being to another.

He says Fiji's 39-million US dollar poultry industry could also be at risk.

Dr Singh says Fiji's health sector has been so occupied with many reported outbreaks of diseases this year that there has been little time to prepare for a bird flu pandemic.