Bird flu: a health issue for up to ten years

24-10-2006 | |

United Nations bird flu expert David Nabarro has said that bird flu is expected to remain a serious global animal health risk for up to ten years.

He said that the avian influenza virus was likely to linger because it can survive in certain communities of birds without symptoms, and because it appears to be spread by both migratory birds and fowl trade.
Dr Nabarro, who was speaking at UN World Headquarters in New York, said that although the virus had not spread as far as anticipated in Africa, 2006 still saw the highest number of bird flu deaths so far.
“In 2006 we did see more than 30 countries reporting outbreaks,” said Dr Nabarro, the Senior UN System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza.
“Unfortunately the virus continues to affect humans…and the rate of human death is still distressingly high, with Indonesia increasingly becoming the country which causes all of us… very great concern.”
Africa also poses a major challenge to curbing the disease, he said, as recurring political and economic instability and lack of funding hamstring progress.
Dr Nabarro did commend the efforts made by countries to stem the spread of the virus and expressed satisfaction at fast-track responses to past outbreaks.
“We’ve seen big efforts by the World Health Organisation (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.

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