LETTERS
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Bird flu reporting problems

Bird flu reporting problems

Dear Sirs,
Interesting news report by Nopniwat Krailerg on CM Mayorís comments about the thousands of Public Health Officers, community leaders and volunteers working together to check for signs of the bird flu virus. Also the educational program for residents telling them how to spot symptoms and to report on bird and fowl deaths in the area.

This is all very well but has any member of the general public actually been able to report the death of birds and/or fowl? For that matter, has anyone at Chiangmai Mail tried to do this?

We had an instance of finding a dead bird in a neighborís dog pen which we were minding while the owners were away. The dog was sleeping on the bird - possibly a pigeon or dove - and there were a lot of feathers scattered around so it was probably trying to eat the carcass as well. So we thought it worth reporting, but to whom?

We found the dead bird on a Sunday morning in the Doi Saket area. First, we tried the local police station. They didnít know but said they would try to find out and call us back. That was almost three weeks ago - and still no news.

Then we tried the local hospital. They asked a lot of questions - how many birds? What kind of bird? How long was it dead? Had we touched it? But didnít know where to report it and had no suggestions.

We tried the local health and administration offices - but of course, they were closed - Sunday.

Finally, we tried the phone operator who gave us a four-figure number saying this was a 24/7 emergency number. We rang. Nobody answered.

In desperation, we called our niece, a health worker in a major Bangkok hospital. She told us the four figure number was for the Bangkok area only and no other numbers exist for the rest of the country. However, she did manage to locate a district health worker in the Chiang Mai area with a mobile number. He said it was not in his jurisdiction but that he would contact an appropriate person. Such a person did call us on that same Sunday evening and said he would come to the site on Monday morning.

Which he did - and took the carcass away for testing. He said he would report back to us in 10 days if there was a problem. He hasnít. He also left with us some chemical to be mixed with 20 liters of water and sprayed around the area. This was done with the aid of local gardening workers and their sprayer on our housing estate.

The upshot of it all? We have had no report from the district official who took the carcass for testing. The dog is still alive and apparently unaffected- as are we. The owners have returned to take over the dogís care.

The point though is this - is it possible to make it easier for members of the general public to report instances of bird/fowl death by publishing a local emergency number to phone? A 24/7 local number that is at least connected to an answering service.

Your worthy rag would win smarty points with its readers if it published such a number with each report of bird flu you publish. Donít you think? Or you could donate a small section for this - an earpiece say? Or an advertiser could sponsor the space - a vegetarian restaurant?

Sasina and Malcolm Logan
Doi Saket
P.S. - further to my letter, you may be interested to know that the Ďman from the ministryí, that is, the district official who took the bird carcass away for testing phoned today to say that the results of the test were negative, i.e., no bird flu. So the system does grind slowly on if you are prepared to persevere with it ... I wonder how many are?