ROME, Sept. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- The Italian cabinet will earmark funds to
acquire enough avian flu vaccine to protect the Italian population, Italian
Health Minister Francesco Storace announced here on Monday.
"In Italy we have focused our efforts more on preventive vaccines than on
medicines. We are first in the world for stipulating contracts with the three
pharmaceutical companies which are developing and producing the vaccines and
have alreadyordered 35 million doses," Storace said on Italian radio on Monday.
Italy will also order medicines to treat avian flu and the funds for this
will be allocated on Friday as well, the minister added.
According to the results of a study presented this past weekendin Malta at
the second European conference on influenza, an avian flu epidemic in Italy
could see up to 16 million people catching the disease, two million of whom
would need hospitalisation.
A recent study from the World Health Organization (WHO) singledout Italy
for being behind in stockpiling anti-flu vaccine.
In fact, Italy's target to have enough vaccine for 10 percent of its
population is still far behind those of other European countries.
Avian flu, also called bird flu, is a highly contagious viral disease which
can be 100 percent fatal among fowl. All types of birds are susceptible to the
virus but outbreaks occur most often in chickens and turkeys.
One of the greatest problems in containing avian flu is that itcan be
carried by migratory wild birds which often show no signs of disease.
Although humans are only rarely affected, scientists are concerned that the
virus which causes the flu could mutate into a more dangerous form.
At present, the symptoms of avian flu in humans are similar to regular flu and pose a greater risk to people with respiratory complications and illnesses. Enditem