Thursday, February 21, 2008

CARE Laos Press Release: National Hotline Launch

National Avian Influenza Hotline launched

The National Avian Influenza (AI) Hotline was officially launched on Monday 18th February, 2008 by Dr Bounlay Phommasack, Director of the National Avian and Human Influenza Coordination Office. The ceremony was attended by AI stakeholders in Laos including representatives from ……………………

The AI hotline aims to provide a national service for the public of the Lao PDR to receive information regarding avian influenza, or to make reports on suspected cases of avian influenza. The hotline has been developed in partnership with the National Avian and Human Influenza Coordination Office (NAHICO), the United Nations Avian and Human Influenza Coordination Office (UNAHI), the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and CARE, and is funded through US-CDC. UNICEF, the Academy for Educational Development (AED) and FAO, have provided significant support to the promotion of the hotline, which is essential to ensuring its success.

To access the hotline, callers dial ‘166’, which is a free call number. Calls are answered by call operators trained to answer a wide variety of questions regarding avian influenza. If a caller is using the hotline to make a report regarding suspected avian influenza in poultry or humans, then the call operator will take the details and refer the report to the appropriate government agency, which will then follow up with appropriate representatives at the provincial or district level for further investigation.

Although in its early days, the hotline has already proven successful. On 5 February, 2008, a call was made to the hotline reporting that 500 poultry and 2 pigs had died in Long District, Luangnamtha Province. This report was followed closely by animal health authorities and, following testing, on 11 February, 2008, NAHICO confirmed a new outbreak of AI in poultry in Luangnamtha Province. ‘We are glad to have had this hotline in place as it enabled quick and direct reporting of this recent outbreak’, said Ms Monica Spedding, CARE AI Projects Coordinator.

Early reporting is critical in the control of Avian Influenza. If reporting is carried out in a timely fashion, authorities are better able to control the spread of the disease. Through the AI hotline, common obstacles to reporting such as fuel and telephone call costs, and time factors are removed.

To reach the cost free hotline, dial ‘166’ from any landline or mobile telephone. It is open from 7am – 6pm, Monday to Friday.

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