Malaysia stocks up on anti-flu drugs

Malaysia plans to stock up on anti-flu drugs and protective gear to prepare for a possible outbreak of avian influenza, a minister has said.

The Health Ministry will also set up a bird flu committee with the Agricultural Ministry to tackle any outbreak more efficiently, Health Minister Chua Soi Lek said.

The role of health officials on the committee will be to monitor suspected cases of the disease in clinics or hospitals nationwide, while agriculture officers will monitor poultry in farms and pet birds.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has swept through poultry populations in Asia since 2003, infecting humans and killing at least 65 people, mostly poultry workers, and resulting in the culling of tens of millions of birds. No human fatalities have occurred in Malaysia.

Chua said the government will need enough Tamiflu anti-flu tablets for at least 20 to 30 percent of the population if there is an outbreak. The total cost for the anti-flu drug and other preventive measures could cost 500 million ringgit (US$132 million; 109 million), authorities say, informs the AP. I.L.

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