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"Currently, the government has no capacity to tackle bird flu in case of an outbreak," said Zambia's health minister Silvia Masebo yesterday (27 October). She added that a multi-sectoral taskforce has been set up to face the threat of the H5N1 virus arriving in the country.

The taskforce is being led by health and agriculture ministers and includes representatives of other relevant ministries, the Word Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the disaster management unit in the office of the vice president.

Masebo warned that bird flu could arrive in Zambia with migrating birds or through the arrival of infected people. The government will soon begin monitoring all ports of entry for signs of the disease.

Peter Songolo, medical officer for diseases prevention and control with WHO Zambia, says his organisation has offered guidelines for preparatory measures such as stockpiling antiviral drugs.

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