NEWS

Entry of bird flu is ‘inevitable’

The government is going over the emergency plans it has drawn up to protect the country from an outbreak of bird flu, said Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis, who admitted yesterday that the virus’s entry into Greece is a matter of time. «At some point, nobody knows when, there will be a case of bird flu in Greece,» Kaklamanis told a parliamentary committee. «This is not the issue. (The issue is) how we will react,» he added. Greece has been on standby recently after the disease killed four people in neighboring Turkey and has infected another 21 there. The health threat has increased with signs that the virus is skirting around Greece’s borders. Over the weekend, there was the first confirmed case of the H5N1 strain in a chicken in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus. The government has earmarked 3.9 million euros in extra funding to boost its defenses against the virus, while also increasing checks at borders, airports, and seaports. About 500 veterinary staff have been hired to help carry out inspections. The Health Ministry is planning a general emergency exercise for a pandemic scenario next week that will involve two hospitals, one in Athens and another in Thessaloniki. Angelos Hadzakis, head of the Center for Infectious Disease Control, said that if the virus mutates into a form that can be transmitted among humans, it could spark a pandemic. «In such a case, it is expected that 30 to 50 percent of the planet’s population will fall sick,» he said. According to Hadzakis, statistical data support that pandemics historically occur on average three times a century.