OIE: Bird flu risk is overstated

15-01-2008 | |

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said fears of a pandemic from H5N1 bird flu were overblown, but this has been criticised by disease experts and preparedness advocates.

Bernard Vallat, director general of the OIE, was quoted as saying that even though bird flu will always be a risk, “the risk was overestimated,” adding that the virus has proved extremely stable, despite concerns that it could mutate into a form that could spread easily among humans.
However, infectious disease expert Michael T. Osterholm, a leading pandemic preparedness proponent, recommends viewing the statements made with caution because of their differences. He took strong exception to the idea that the virus is stable and doesn’t represent much of a threat.
“Regardless of what Dr Vallat said, this virus is hardly stable,” said Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
Despite the somewhat conflicting accounts, the other experts asserted that Vallat was sending the wrong signal.