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Countries Must Maintain Vigilance Against Bird Flu

Countries must maintain vigilance in fight against bird flu, says new UN report

Despite significant advances to deal with the deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu in the past two years, countries must maintain their vigilance and cooperate in the face of a possible pandemic, according to a joint United Nations and World Bank report.

The new report concludes "that the capacity and understanding around communication about bird flu has greatly improved," David Nabarro, Senior UN System Influenza Coordinator, said at a press briefing in New York.

A synopsis of "Responses to Avian Influenza and State of Pandemic Readiness" - based on data provided by 143 nations - was made public today in advance of the 4-6 December ministerial-level world conference on avian and pandemic influenza to be held in New Delhi, India.

In six countries, including Indonesia, the virus is still enzootic, which means it is continuously present and being passed between poultry.

Additionally, "we have some major anxieties about the extent to which countries' pandemic preparedness plans are really capable of being operationalized," Dr. Nabarro said.

"When the pandemic strikes, viruses will not understand borders and they will spread to all countries and all people of the world will be at risk."

Countries must bolster their readiness to respond to not just the health, but the economic and social consequences of a potential pandemic as well, Dr. Nabarro said, calling for global solidarity coordinated national strategies for dealing with pandemics.

The report called for a three to five year road map to be established urgently to "build on and strengthen efforts to date - and to drive inter-governmental action both for the control of avian influenza... and to ensure a better global readiness for future health crises."

It suggested that scientists share virus samples given the ongoing genetic evolution of H5N1 and others as part of a system managed by the UN World Health Organization (WHO).


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