Source Pravda.Ru

Philippines earmarks US$2.5 million to keep bird flu out

The government has created a 122.8 million peso (US$2.52 million; EUR 1.94 million) fund to keep bird flu out of the Philippines, officials said Monday.

The fund, part of the soon-to-be-signed 2007 national budget, will be available to five government agencies, led by the Department of Agriculture, to implement the Avian Influenza Protection Program, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya said. The Philippines remains free of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus.

The program will focus on monitoring areas at risk of infection from migratory birds, upgrading laboratories, building up rapid-action capability in case of an outbreak and other activities, Andaya said in a statement.

The program designates the agriculture department to coordinate with the health, environment and natural resources, trade and industry, and local government departments to keep the country avian flu-free.

The health department earlier drafted a bird flu response plan that details actions to be taken by each department, in coordination with an interagency task force, during four "danger-level scenarios," said Dr. Lydon Lee Suy, the health department's avian flu program chief.

Andaya said other parts of the budget, such as the government's calamity fund, could be tapped in the event of an outbreak, reports AP.

The H5N1 virus has killed or prompted the slaughter of millions of birds across Asia since late 2003, and caused the deaths of at least 165 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Bird flu remains hard for humans to catch, but international experts fear it may mutate into a form that could spread easily between humans and potentially kill millions around the world.

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