UN: Bird flu still poses global threat

April 16th, 2010 - 11:54 pm ICT by BNO News  

UNITED NATIONS (BNO NEWS) – According to a United Nations (UN) health expert, the bird flu virus still persists in five countries, and poses a continuing threat to global animal and human health, the UN said Friday.

The deadly H5N1 bird flu virus from poultry has been successfully eliminated in nearly all 63 countries infected by the world outbreak in 2006, but despite it has been generally controlled, the virus must be carefully monitored.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth mentioned at the International Ministerial Conference on Animal and Pandemic Influenza opening in Hanoi, Vietnam on Monday, that public attention has shifted to the influenza pandemic for most of last year, but he continued to say that the bird flu is still a menace.

“The progressive control of H5N1 in such countries remains an international priority,” Dr. Lubroth warned. “As long as it is present in even one country, there is still a public health risk to be taken seriously.”

The H5N1 was entrenched in Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and China, where tens of millions of free-ranging domestic ducks, significant industrial broiler production continue to exist together with live bird markets, and human and animal densities are high.

“It is clear that humans will continue to become exposed to a variety of influenza viruses originating in animals, and even if the severity and magnitude of resulting outbreaks remains unpredictable we know that pressures are building,” Lubroth said, considering that the very process of economic and population growth, including intensified agricultural production, fosters the emergence of new infectious diseases as ever larger numbers of animals and humans occupy delicate ecosystems

Luberoth called on the FAO, the UN World Health Organization, and the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health, which led global efforts against H5N1, to take a leading role in finding a definitive solution to the problem.

“We must stop hopping from one crisis situation to the next,” Dr. Lubroth said. “We have to do a better job of forecasting and monitoring the drivers that promote the emergence and spread of diseases, and institute improved risk management. We must be able to tackle problems at source before they become regional, continental or global threats.”

H5N1 killed almost 300 people, killed or forced the culling of over 260 million birds, caused an estimated $20 billion in economic damage across the globe and devastated livelihoods at the family-farm level. Experts feared it could mutate into a deadlier, human-to-human transmissible form, but recent concerns have focused on a different variation – H1N1, or so-called swine flu.

The conference in Hanoi aims to marshal global cooperation against future infectious diseases, drawing on experience gained in response to H1N1 and H5N1.

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