Manual eyed to help Japanese abroad in bird-flu pandemics

Kyodo News

Japan plans to compile a manual by year’s end to address a possible outbreak of a new bird flu-mutated human influenza, Foreign Ministry officials said Wednesday.

The manual will include measures for the dispatch of a medical team abroad to protect Japanese nationals in the event they cannot flee an affected area, they said.

The Foreign Ministry, which plans to report on the idea to a ministerial meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, will set up a panel of medical experts later this month to draw up details, the officials said.

APEC leaders are expected to agree to strengthen joint efforts against bird flu and other infectious diseases at their Nov. 18-19 summit in Hanoi after the Nov. 15-16 meeting of their foreign and economic ministers there.

The government is considering sending a medical team to any country hit by an outbreak that compels it to restrict travel overseas, thus making it impossible for Japanese nationals to leave, according to the officials.

Outbreaks will be broken down into six levels — normal conditions, an epidemic among birds, bird-to-human transmission, an outbreak of human-to-human transmission, the spread of human-to-human transmission and global pandemic.

With the situation deteriorating chiefly in Indonesia, a global pandemic is currently feared, the officials said.

The envisaged measures will center on the provision of information to Japanese nationals abroad up to the third stage of bird-to-human infection, but the Foreign Ministry would urge nationals to consider a possible evacuation at the third level if such infections become widespread.

In case of an outbreak of human-to-human infection, the ministry will issue a warning for Japanese nationals to evacuate the afflicted area.