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Vigilance Against Bird Flu Must Not Wane

Vigilance Against Bird Flu Must Not Wane, UN Agriculture Agency Warns

New York, Dec 4 2007 2:00PM

The United Nations agriculture agency warned today that continued vigilance is needed to avert a global pandemic of avian influenza as Chinese health officials reported a new case of fatal infection in a human.

Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), told an international ministerial conference on bird flu in New Delhi that control efforts must be maintained, given that the H5N1 virus responsible for outbreaks in recent years is still circulating in some parts of the world.

“The spread of avian influenza typifies the potential emergence of major health crises, with an increased risk of pathogens travelling over large distances in very short time periods, favoured by globalization and climate change,” he said.

Mr. Diouf stressed the need for robust control efforts led by well-equipped veterinary services when dealing with animals, especially poultry, to prevent the spread of the virus throughout the production chain.

“We are still uncertain as to the precise the role played by wild birds. There are real risks of viruses emerging against which current vaccines provide no protection.”

He added that the international community will have to prepare for other major health crises to potentially emerge from the animal kingdom, especially given the acceleration of international trade and the impact of climate change.

Meanwhile, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported today that China’s national laboratory confirmed on Sunday that a 24-year-old man from Jiangsu province who had developed symptoms last month and then died at the weekend was infected with the H5N1 virus.

“There is no initial indication to suggest he had contact with sick birds prior to becoming unwell,” WHO said in a media statement. “Close contacts have been placed under medical observation and all remain well.”

So far in China, of the 26 confirmed human cases of infection with the H5N1 virus, 17 have been fatal. Some 60 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa have been affected by bird flu since 2003, with most outbreaks confined to domestic poultry, such as chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks and quails.

ENDS

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