January 30, 2006
Director General, WHO
Avenue Appia 20
Director General Lee:
hope that this letter finds you and your staff well as you
face a variety of global health concerns, including avian
flu. The current prospect of an avian flu epidemic merits
the full involvement of the entire international community.
It also serves as another forceful reason for Taiwan's
meaningful and effective participation in the activities of
the World Health Organization.
flu has struck China and Southeast Asian countries,
including Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. Commerce between
Taiwan and its neighboring countries puts it at risk for
importing the virus from an infected area. Taiwan currently
employs more that 300,000 foreign workers from Southeast
Asia. In 2004, 1.5 million Taiwanese people visited
Southeast Asian countries while a half million people from
Southeast Asia visited Taiwan. Almost 4 million people from
Taiwan visit China annually. Taiwan is also an important
transit point for migratory birds, which are the main
carries of the avian flu virus. Approximately one million
migratory birds annually pass through Taiwan or reside in
Taiwan during the winter season.
Taiwan has thus far been free of the H5N1 strain of the
avian flu virus, but is seriously at risk. A less virulent
strain of avian flu, H7N3, was found in the droppings of
migratory birds in Taiwan. Further, on October 14, 2005, a
vessel from China was discovered with 1,037 smuggled pet
birds on board. Among the 46 birds randomly selected for
tests, 8 were found H5N1 positive. The consequences are
unthinkable if the vessel had not been discovered in time.
Taiwan has taken measures to combat bird flu within its
borders, but effective efforts will require the engagement
of the entire region and the world. It is disturbing that
Taiwan has not been given full access to the Global Outbreak
Alert and Response Network (GOARN), the Global Influenza
Program (GIP), the Global Early Warning and Response System
(GLEWS), and the Global Influenza Surveillance System (GISN).
Diseases know no borders. Taiwan cannot afford to be the
missing link in this international battle against the avian
flu. Even more importantly, the global community cannot
afford to leave Taiwan out.
the US Congress have passed numerous resolutions supporting
Taiwan's WHO participation, and the US government is on
record in support of Taiwan's WHO observer status.
sincerely hope that you will show the leadership necessary
to advance this matter. And we will pay close attention to
WHO actions in this regard.
HYDE TOM LANTOS
Ranking Democratic Member