Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Australia : Millions More Protective Masks Needed To Prevent Bird Flu Disaster

Government Estimates 148,000 Australians Could Be Hospitalised During Pandemic

A new study has concluded that Australia faces a more severe threat of a wider bird flu pandemic due to a severe lack of the most basic protection wear for the hospital and medical staff who will have to care for its victims.

From the ABC :
Stockpiles of special masks for hospital staff to wear while treating bird flu patients are likely to be inadequate and quickly run out in a pandemic, an Australian study suggests.

Insufficient stocks of protective wear will lead to more people becoming infected, depleting stockpiles of antiviral drugs sooner, it concludes.

"Until now all the fuss has been about drugs but the crucial thing is if there's an epidemic, masks will protect the drug stockpile," says society president and senior investigator Professor Lindsay Grayson.

"The study shows if we run out of masks, a lot more people are going to need drugs," adds Grayson, who is the director of infectious diseases at Austin Health.

Guidelines recommend high-filtration masks for healthcare workers in close contact with infected patients.

The Federal Government's national stockpile has at least two million of the masks, plus at least 40 million standard surgical masks for the projected 1-7.5 million people who will attend GPs, clinics and outpatients.

The Government projects a maximum 148,000 infected people may be hospitalised.

The Australian government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars stockpiling anti-viral medications that are expected to expire shortly. Unlike anti-virals, the report points out, protective wear like high-filtration masks do not have a use-by date.

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