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Bird flu: Thailand winning war

Thailand did the impossible this year: it reported no new cases even as the H5N1 infection that causes bird flu spread across birds, animals and humans around the world.

india Updated: Mar 15, 2006 01:43 IST

Since its first bird flu outbreak among poultry in January 2004, Thailand has had 22 human cases and 14 deaths. This year, however, Thailand did the impossible: it reported no new cases even as the H5N1 infection that causes bird flu spread across birds, animals and humans around the world.

Here's how Thailand did it: over 7.5 lakh volunteers monitoring and reporting bird deaths and human illness in their villages to the government as part of the country's early detection strategy.

The ministries of public health and agriculture trained these volunteers — in many cases uneducated — from each village across the country to keep the government updated on basic information such as number of chicken deaths, the kind of feed used, symptoms of influenza among birds or humans.

Each day, these volunteers check on poultry owners and get basic information — such as illness or deaths in birds or the names of the people who have fever in a village — and report it back to the health workers. These volunteers are not paid, but work for social prestige and incentives such as free medical care or even a diploma from the government.

For a country with a population of 63 million, mustering up 7.5 lakh volunteers to track bird flu is phenomenal. "Volunteers have been used extensively by Thailand's Ministry of Public Health in the past and is an excellent example of optimally utilising human resources for health to meet the current health needs of the people," says Dr PT Jayawickramarajah, Coordinator, Strengthening of Health Services, World Health Organisation (WHO).

This year, the World Health Day theme is working together for health and focuses on better training, budgetary resources, education and working environment for health.

First Published: Mar 15, 2006 01:43 IST