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WHO Warns:No Speedy End To Asian Bird Flu Epidemic

UN Health Agency Warns Of No Speedy End To Asian Bird Flu Epidemic

With more poultry affected over the past two months in the current bird flu epidemic in Asia than the total number in the world’s five previous largest outbreaks combined, the United Nations health agency has warned that it could take years to bring the present outbreaks under control.

“Prospects for rapid control are inconsistent with worldwide experience, over more than four decades, with previous outbreaks which have all been much smaller in scope and inherently less challenging,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest update on the epidemic of the virulent H5N1 strain in at least eight Asian countries.

“Even in countries with good surveillance, adequate resources, and geographically limited outbreaks, control has often taken up to two years,” the Geneva-based agency pointed out. “For these reasons and others, WHO has cautioned against assumptions that the outbreaks can be controlled in the immediate future.”

Over the past two months, more than 100 million birds have either died of the disease or been culled in Asia, while there have been 33 confirmed cases of the disease’s transmission to humans, 22 of them fatal.

Bird flu has been confirmed in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Laos, Thailand and Viet Nam and poultry has also been culled in Pakistan.

With so many adjacent countries affected, a region-wide strategy will be needed to ensure that gains in one country are not compromised by inadequate control in another, WHO stressed.

The agency noted that a number of factors will hamper disease control measures, including the concentration of poultry in backyard farms, the economic significance of the industry, the prevailing lack of experience in tackling these epidemics as well as an absence of adequate resources for that purpose. Culling remains the first line of action.

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