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2008/05/10 16:11 KST
S. Korea to raise Tamiflu reserves amid bird flu scare

   SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to increase its emergency reserves of the avian influenza drug Tamiflu to cope with humans possibly contracting the deadly virus amid the country's worst bird flu outbreak, health officials said Saturday.

   South Korea has culled more than 6.8 million birds since the latest bird flu outbreak started on April 1, causing 53.2 billion (US$50.8 million) in estimated damages.
Even though no human deaths have been reported in South Korea, some 240 people have reportedly died from the deadly H5N1 strain around the world.

   The state-run Korea Center for Disease and Control said that it decided to increase its Tamiflu reserve for up to 2.5 million people, or 5 percent of the country's population, from the current reserve set for 1.24 million by the end of the year.

   The drug is manufactured by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG.

   The government is also mulling the creation of a separate pre-pandemic vaccine reserve for up to 40,000 people, an official at the agency said.

   "We are considering, for now, a small stockpile due to price concerns, as the vaccines are mostly valid for a year," the official said.

   Earlier in the day, President Lee Myung-bak instructed his Cabinet to take measures to prevent human bird flu infection and to secure a sufficient amount of antiviral flu drug in preparation for a nationwide spread of avian influenza.

   odissy@yna.co.kr
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