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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
GLOBAL: Taiwan Asks WHO to Help Close Disease Control 'Gap'

September 17, 2007
Reuters (09.14.07) - Monday, September 17, 2007

On Friday, Taiwan asked for World Health Organization help to close a gap in disease control. The statement concerned poor monitoring of health risks on the island, which is not a member of WHO. Because China considers the self-ruled island a renegade province, Taiwan has been denied membership in WHO and other UN bodies.

Taiwan issued the statement through its diplomatic offices in Geneva, saying that Beijing had not done enough to implement WHO's international health rules requiring strict oversight of disease outbreaks and other threats. Of specific concern was the handling of two TB patients, one with a multi-drug resistant strain, who defied a flight ban and traveled from Taiwan to mainland China through Hong Kong in July.

Taiwan said its disease control agency promptly reported the incident to WHO and Chinese health authorities, but did not receive communication on how to contain the contagion "in a direct and timely manner," since Beijing had been WHO's point of contact.

Taiwan's disease control agency "has been totally in charge of detecting, assessing, notifying, and reporting the case with effective responses as expected by the [international health regulations]," the statement said.

WHO rules require countries to disclose potential health threats from disease, chemical agents, radioactive materials, and contaminated food. Taiwan enacted the rules unilaterally but is not in direct contact with WHO since it is not a member.

Although Taipei intends to implement the global health rules on its own, it "still needs the cooperation of the WHO so as to be included, on a de facto basis at least, in the global system," the statement said. "Therefore, the Taipei delegation urges the WHO and its member states to look into the problem and take appropriate actions in helping find a solution to close the gap in the global disease control system."