NEWS

Plan to fight bird flu in place

Hotels will be converted into medical clinics and trainee doctors and nurses will be enlisted to help treat millions of patients if there is a bird flu outbreak in Greece, according to government plans seen by Sunday’s Kathimerini. In line with international recommendations, Greece has prepared a national action plan should the deadly form of the virus hit the country. The plan was drawn up by the Disease Control and Prevention Center and approved by the Health Ministry in March. Greece suffered an avian flu scare last month when a turkey on the eastern Aegean island of Oinouses tested positive for the disease, but EU checks later found that it had not been infected. In its deadly H5N1 form, bird flu has killed over 60 people in Asia. World Health Organization (WHO) officials said earlier this month that Greece and Ukraine were the most likely countries to suffer from bird flu next as they lie on the route taken by migratory birds. According to the plan drawn up for Greece, the disease could result in a quarter of the country’s population of 11 million people falling ill. This could double, depending on the time it takes to vaccinate sufferers. It is estimated that some 3,500 hospital wards will be needed to treat patients so the plan calls for private clinics to give up any free space they have and for authorities to turn hotels into treatment areas. The shortage in medical staff would be covered by bringing in student doctors and nurses as well as pharmacists and volunteers from non-governmental organizations. The plan also calls for the Health Ministry to create a stock of 5 million vaccines against bird flu, which would ensure that 5 percent of the population would be covered until more drugs arrived.