Bird flu will remain a threat for years to come, experts warn at UN special meeting
While bird flu has been successfully checked in Western Europe and
much of Southeast Asia apart from Indonesia, it is still expanding in Africa and
will remain a threat for years to come, with the number of countries affected
doubling to 60 in just the two months from February to April, according to
United Nations officials.
"In the majority of cases, wherever HPAI [highly pathogenic avian
influenza] has made its appearance we, the global community and the
countries concerned have been able to stop it in its tracks," UN Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) Deputy Director-General David Harcharik told a high-level
meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on the disease in
But, he warned at a Council special event on bird flu, "HPAI
poses a continuing threat and we must brace ourselves to go on fighting it,
quite likely for years."
Mr Harcharik stressed that it was imperative
to act quickly and decisively to stop HPAI wherever it appeared because so long
as the H5N1 virus causing it stayed in circulation it would remain a threat to
the international community. H5N1 had not so far mutated into a form
transmittable from one human being to another, but should it do so, the result
could be a pandemic of vast proportions, he said.
There have so far
been only 229 confirmed human cases, 131 of them fatal, since the current
outbreak started in South East Asia in December 2003, nearly all of them
ascribed to contact with infected birds, according to the UN World Health
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