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UN calls for more efforts against possible bird flu pandemic
posted by admin on 12/05/06
The virus could mutate into a strain that could spark a human pandemic
The United Nations on Tuesday called on the international community to step up measures to curb the spread of the avian flu pandemic.
Addressing the ongoing 114th Session of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting in Nairobi, UN Senior Coordinator for the Avian and Human Influenza, Dr. David Nabarro, warned that the virus could mutate into a strain that could spark a human pandemic.
Dr. Nabarro warned that more disastrous scenario could be possible if no immediate and efficient measures put under way to fight the spread of H5N1 Bird Flu strain.
"The avian flu has rapidly moved into Africa, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent and into Europe during the last four months. There is potential for influenza virus in birds to perhaps mutate and become the cause of the next human influenza pandemic," Dr. Nabarro warned.
"This would have enormous consequences in terms of human suffering and social and economic damage," he told lawmakers from across the world meeting in Nairobi.
The UN official said the number of countries that had reported cases of outbreaks of the H5N1 strain had doubled over the past four months.
"At the beginning of the year only 15 countries had been affected by the outbreak but by last month the number had moved up to 32," he said. "There is need for effective actions by the governments to address this strain and the need for partnerships between the governments, private sector, community organizations and the media."
Dr. Nabarro said the disease had caused billions of dollars worth of economic damage and the virus was likely to mutate into a more dangerous strain.
The six-day global conference has brought together about 1,500 delegates, including lawmakers and senior parliamentary staff.
"Parliamentarians should make a point each year of asking their governments, asking their specialists on what they are doing to deal with the possibilities of the pandemic, to prepare for the pandemic, to test preparedness and also to work internationally to ensure the actors are coping with this threat," he warned.
The H5N1 bird flu virus has led to the deaths of millions of birds in more than 30 countries.
It has spread to over a dozen new countries in the past month and infected 175 people since 2003, killing more than 100 of them.
Although it remains an avian disease, and rarely affects humans, health officials fear it will mutate into a form that can easily jump from human to human, triggering a pandemic, in which millions of people might die.
In Africa, the strain has been found in Nigeria, Egypt, Niger, Cameroon and Burkina Faso, while several countries have stepped up surveillance measures to fight the disease.
Kenya is among several countries, which have slapped full or partial imports on imports of poultry, their products and wild birds and have begun monitoring migratory birds as they arrive.
Kenya, which lies in the migratory path along with other east African Rift Valley nations, including Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, are considered at high risk for the spread of the virus as millions of migratory birds flock there during the European winter.
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