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Global Vigilance Needed to Counter Bird Flu, Indonesia Causes Concern

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  • John MacDougall
    From UNNews@un.org GLOBAL VIGILANCE IS NEEDED TO COUNTER BIRD FLU, INDONESIA CAUSES CONCERN: UN COORDINATOR New York, Oct 23 2006 4:00PM While
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 26, 2006
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      From UNNews@... <UNNews@...>

      GLOBAL VIGILANCE IS NEEDED TO COUNTER BIRD FLU, INDONESIA CAUSES
      CONCERN: UN COORDINATOR
      New York, Oct 23 2006 4:00PM
      While the deadly bird flu virus has not spread as widely as feared in
      Africa, vigilance is still needed across the world to counter its
      advance and deal with its impact on humans, the United Nations
      coordinator for the disease said today, expressing in particular "very
      great concern" over Indonesia, where practically the whole country has
      been affected.

      "The situation with regard to avian influenza in the world is that in
      2006 we did see more than 30 countries reporting outbreaks. The
      disease didn't spread quite so profoundly in Africa as we had expected
      it might… but still the amount of viral outbreaks in 2006 were many
      greater than any previous year," Dr. David Nabarro, the Senior UN
      System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza told reporters in New
      York.

      "Unfortunately the virus continues to affect humans: there are 256
      people known to be affected, 151 dying and the rate of human death is
      still distressingly high, with Indonesia increasingly becoming the
      country which causes all of us… very great concern."

      There have been 43 deaths out of 53 human cases so far in Indonesia
      this year, a significant proportion of the 73 human deaths recorded
      worldwide since the start of 2006, the UN World Health Organization
      (<"http://www.who.int/en/">WHO) reports, noting that the Asian region
      has been hardest hit by the virus, which spreads through contact with
      infected birds.

      However experts fear that the H5N1 virus could mutate, gaining the
      ability to pass from person to person and in a worst case scenario
      unleashing a deadly human pandemic. Dr. Nabarro warned that it will
      remain a "major animal health issue" for years.

      "We think it's going to stay that way for five years perhaps 10 years
      to come because the virus is highly pathogenic yet at the same time
      can seem to survive in certain communities of birds without symptoms…
      and secondly it does seem to be spread by a combination of wild birds
      and trade."

      Dr. Nabarro, who has just returned from a fact-finding trip to
      Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar, said in order to deal with
      such a long-term problem, which has already forced the culling of
      hundreds of millions of poultry to curb the disease's spread, it will
      mean changes to commercial bird rearing and also better preparedness
      to deal with outbreaks.

      Already such changes are taking place, he said, praising countries
      responses to the disease, including better preparation and improved
      veterinarian services; however more needed to be done, especially in
      Indonesia.

      "Indonesia has the virus probably in 30 out of 33 provinces… now
      Indonesia has had to move fast to completely redesign its animal
      health services… the Government certainly is committed together with
      the UN to making this happen but… still there's such a lot to be done."

      Stressing the need for continuous vigilance, Dr. Nabarro also
      highlighted the importance of being better prepared for any human
      outbreaks worldwide and noted in particular a call by the WHO today
      for more action and funding to prepare for this and other pandemic
      influenzas.

      "We've seen big efforts by the World Health Organization (WHO) working
      with Governments to make sure that we've got a containment system in
      place and WHO today releasing its Global Action Plan for vaccine
      development, so that if a pandemic does appear we've got a better
      supply of vaccines in place to deal with this," he said.

      The new plan, based on advice from more than 120 immunization and
      other experts, warns that the world is far short of the amount of
      vaccine needed to counter an outbreak of pandemic influenza should it
      break out and it urges immediate action to remedy this.

      "We are presently several billion doses short of the amount of
      pandemic influenza vaccine we would need to protect the global
      population. This situation could lead to a public health crisis," said
      Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Director, WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research.

      "The Global Action Plan sets the course for what needs to be done,
      starting now, to increase vaccine production capacity and close the
      gap. In just three to five years we could begin to see results that
      could save many lives in case of a pandemic."
      2006-10-23 00:00:00.000
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