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UN To Prepare For Possible Human Flu Pandemic

Annan Urges Massive International Effort To Prepare For Possible Human Flu Pandemic

The possibility of human-to-human transmission of the bird flu virus must be met by a coordinated international response, reflecting the needs of all nations, United Nations Secretary-General said in a message to a conference today in China on avian influenza.

"To be truly prepared, we will need to mount a massive effort -- from upgrading veterinary systems and launching vaccination drives, to encouraging change in the ways people coexist with animals," he said, pointing out that the cost of action now is small compared to the price of tackling a pandemic.

In his video message to the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Influenza, which was aired in Beijing, Mr. Annan called for sharing information, biological material and scientific expertise, providing essential medicines to those in need, and galvanizing international efforts "with a minimum of red tape and quibbling."

Pledging the UN's full support for this effort, he said: "I have asked all parts of the United Nations system to have contingency plans in place, so that we can sustain vital support, if and when a human pandemic does erupt.

"I encourage all Governments to do the same," he added. "There is no time to waste."

Reviewing the disease's toll so far, he noted that deaths among humans have been accompanied by the loss of more than 140 million chickens, causing massive hardship to farmers, and spreading fear in their communities. "In many communities, animal and human health services are being taxed to the limit."

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