Date Published: 10 October 2006
Thailand launches national Avian Influenza awareness, prevention campaign in schools
A nationwide school-based campaign aimed at helping Thai children and their families protect themselves from the threat of Avian Influenza was launched Tuesday by the Ministry of Education (MOE).
The MOE campaign will cover all 40,000 elementary and secondary schools in the country and will focus on promoting frequent hand washing, rapid reporting of sick and dead poultry and other key behaviours needed to prevent the spread of the deadly H5N1 virus that causes Avian Influenza.
In launching the campaign at the ministry, Dr. Kasama Varavarn, the MOE Permanent Secretary, lauded the strong collaboration between the MOE, UNICEF, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), the Government of Japan and other partners, which she said resulted in the rapid development of campaign materials.
Under the campaign, two million posters and two million pamphlets carrying Avian Influenza awareness and prevention messages are being distributed to all schools, along with a newly-developed curriculum on bird flu that will be used to help ensure school children understand the behaviours they need to practice to thwart the spread of the virus.
As part of the campaign’s hygiene promotion component, 300,000 bars of soap will also be distributed to elementary schools across the country. The posters, pamphlets and curriculum were developed through UNICEF support, with funding provided by the Government of Japan.
Seventeen people – 11 of them children under the age of 18 – have died of Avian Influenza in Thailand since the first confirmed human H5N1 case was recorded here in early 2004. There have been three human fatalities so far in 2006, the latest a 60-year-old man from Nong Bua Lamphu province in northeastern Thailand who succumbed to the virus in August.
Bird flu outbreaks have occurred in domestic poultry in at least 30 provinces in Thailand, the world’s fourth-largest poultry producer. Authorities have been forced to destroy millions of ducks and chickens to thwart the spread of the virus, resulting in severe economic losses for both large- and small-scale poultry farmers.
Since 2003, the H5N1 virus is known to have infected more than 250 people in 10 countries worldwide, killing 148. Health officials believe millions of people could be affected if the virus mutates and becomes easily transmissible between people, resulting in a deadly flu pandemic. Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in humans have been linked to close contact with sick or dead birds, such as children playing with them or adults butchering them or plucking feathers.
At Tuesday’s launch, UNICEF Representative Inese Zalitis said the campaign is aimed at limiting opportunities for the H5N1 virus to mutate by stopping its spread from poultry to humans, especially to children.
Japan’s Ambassador to Thailand, Hideaki Kobayashi, who also took part in the launch, called the campaign an example of “significant cooperation” between Thailand, Japan and UNICEF.
The MOPH, together with the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, provided technical support in the development of campaign materials, while Kenan Institute Asia designed the curriculum.