Nabarro: Avian Flu Not Yet under Control

US - United Nations (UN) influenza co-ordinator has commented that the situation is improving but there is a need for continuing vigilance and action.
calendar icon 24 June 2008
clock icon 5 minute read

UN influenza co-ordinator Dr David Nabarro has said that some countries are facing continuing and significant outbreaks of bird flu but the situation in other parts of the world is improving because of the government efforts, reports The Statesman in India.

"We feel that it's prudent to continue to be prepared"
Dr David Nabarro

Dr Nabarro said in New York that the situation is improving but that does not mean that it is completely under control globally.

He stressed that the avian flu virus is still entrenched in five countries - among them India, Viet Nam, Bangladesh and Egypt - and that outbreaks had been recorded in more than 60 countries by the end of 2007.

"We remain very concerned about Indonesia, where the disease seems to be concentrated among poultry in western Java, and we're also seeing the largest numbers of human cases," he said.

"We feel that it's prudent to continue to be prepared, especially as genetic studies of the current bird flu virus show that it is continuously evolving, even though it has not become capable of sustained transmission among humans."

Dr Nabarro cited intensive action by South Korea and the UK to bring outbreaks under control, as well as financial sector exercises in Australia and the US to prepare for the impact of potential avian flu crises. He added that governments have invested heavily in improving conditions in which poultry were reared and have increased their focus on the link between animal and human diseases.

There had also been good work on raising preparedness in the travel and tourism sector, as well as progress on updating global health regulations, he said.

Dr Nabarro noted that the massive global effort to control avian flu has not only led to improved responses to outbreaks in poultry, it has also motivated governments to begin or improve contingency plans to mitigate the medical and economic effects of bird flu epidemics among humans or other threats.

Concern over Bangladesh and Indonesia

The UN is 'very concerned' about the situation in Bangladesh and Indonesia, he said. "But, if we look at the rest of the world, I can continue to report that the situation is really improving."

He added that the financial sector had shown that it was not necessarily expensive to prepare for a pandemic and relevant strategies could help governments prepare for other disruptions and threats. In recent discussions with governments, he noted that Japanese officials are among those keen on integrating pandemic preparedness with other national disaster preparedness strategies.

Dr Nabarro said that in the health sector, the WHO is leading progress on updating international health regulations and working with governments to ensure vaccines were available to fight pandemics. He also welcomed a recent donation to WHO by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur of 60 million H5N1 vaccines, which, added to previous donations from GlaxoSmithKline, would help build a global stockpile of bird flu vaccine.

Forthcoming Global Conference

The Statesman's report continues that Dr Nabarro highlighted the preparations under way for a global conference on the state of H5N1 and other highly pathogenic avian influenza and preparedness for a pandemic to be hosted by Egypt in Sharm El-Sheikh in October.

He will be working with other UN agencies, the World Bank and the Egyptian government on the details of the event during a preparatory meeting next month in Cairo.

The likely outcome of the conference would be a country-by-country review of responses to, and preparedness for, avian flu and a much greater understanding of the key role played by the private sector as a major partner in the response to bird flu and other pandemics.

Dr Nabarro said many human diseases have come from the animal kingdom. To help global preparedness and contingency planning, UN agencies such as WHO and others, have been working to bring more closely together veterinary professionals with human health experts, as well as ministries of agriculture and livestock departments under the One World One Health initiative, he said, according to the Statesman report.

View the Statesman story by clicking here.

Further Reading

- You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.
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