World is prepared to fight avian flu outbreak: UN

October 22nd, 2008 - 3:57 am ICT by IANS  

New York, Oct 22 (DPA) The world is well prepared to beat back any major influenza pandemic with 148 countries having made contingency plans to deal with the disease, the UN and the World Bank said Tuesday.”Considering that pandemic preparedness was largely unaddressed by the world’s nations three years ago, the widespread awareness and action seen today is a major achievement,” said David Nabarro, the UN system influenza coordinator.

“But more needs to be done to ensure that we are ready for this kind of major global crisis,” Nabarro said at UN headquarters while launching a joint report with the World Bank.

The World Bank had warned that an avian influenza pandemic could bring economic losses as high as $3 trillion, or about five percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). A mild outbreak of influenza could kill 1.4 million people worldwide and a severe global outbreak could mean 70 million deaths.

Government ministers are to meet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from Friday to Sunday to discuss the latest measures taken and to plan for future action against influenza. The ministerial conference is hosted by the Egyptian government and the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza, which was launched by the US in 2005.

The UN said no countries have reported major outbreaks of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in their poultry in the first nine months of 2008. There were four infection cases last year. The influenza virus jumped from animals to humans.

A total of 20 countries reported infections in humans from January to September, down from 25 countries last year.

The joint UN-World Bank report said that H5N1 is “still actively circulating among poultry in a number of hotspots”.

Avian influenza has so far killed 245 people around the world since the virus was detected. There were 28 confirmed deaths this year, compared to 59 deaths in 2007.

The report said avian influenza appears entrenched in Indonesia and Egypt and occasionally strikes in Pakistan, parts of China, Bangladesh, the West Bengal region in India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and South Korea.

It said the situation has improved comparatively in the Middle East and in northern and sub-Saharan Africa.

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