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Monday, October 03, 2005

Holy Shit!

'Up to 150m people could die in avian flue pandemic'
(Filed: 30/09/2005)

Q&A on bird flu

Up to 150 million people could die in a global avian flu pandemic if action is not taken to prevent it being transferred from human to human, the United Nations has warned.


Dozens have died from the flu in Asia
Dr David Nabarro of the Geneva-based World Health Organisation said preparations for an expected mutation of the virus enabling it to spread from human to human must be carried out.

"I am almost certain there will be another pandemic soon," Mr Nabarro added.

Dozens of people have died from the virus, mainly in Asia, after it was transferred from birds to humans. So far, there have been no reports of it spreading between humans.

UN secretary-general Kofi Annan has asked Mr Nabarro to head up a worldwide drive to contain the current bird flu pandemic and prepare for its possible jump to humans.

If the virus spreads among humans, the quality of the world response will determine whether it ends up killing five million or as many as 150 million, Mr Nabarro added.

The last flu pandemic, which broke in 1918 at the end of the First World War, killed more than 40 million people.

Mr Nabarro warned it seemed very likely the H5N1 bird flu virus will soon change into a variant able to be transmitted among humans and it would be a big mistake to ignore that danger.

Some governments and international organizations have already started joining forces to begin preparations.

Millions of birds have been destroyed, mainly in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, but the virus has also been found in birds in Russia and Europe.

But once humans have caught it, the virus has shown it has the power to kill one out of every two people it infects.

Until now, the effort to contain the spread of the virus among birds and prepare for a possible shift to humans has been led by the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation and the WHO.

Mr Nabarro said he would head a new UN system-wide office in New York that would begin mobilising governments, international agencies, health workers and the pharmaceutical industry.

Once the virus began spreading among humans, it would be only a matter of weeks before a pandemic was underway, so a rapid response would be crucial, he said.

Two challenges will be governments' traditional desire to ignore threats until they become real dangers, and their reluctance to publicly admit they have a problem once the disease starts spreading, he added.

A vaccine would be the best way to counter the virus and several drug firms around the world are working on one. But production is slow and the immunisation must match the strain that is actually infecting people, so it is not possible to make them up before a new strain emerges.


Next story: Emergency talks to save Turkey EU entry

3 Comments:

Blogger EXSENO said...

Damn scary, isn't it.

12:34 PM  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Yes, I heard about this today as well...It is quite scary.

Thanks for posting.

May you be inscribed for a year of good health and peace.

6:19 PM  
Blogger Tifara said...

I'm in med school now and its so wild in our infectious disease classes our professor always talks about the imminent pandemic and how its unavoidable and how aweful it will be! He doesn't even talk about how there may be a way to keep it from happening, but only that its inevitable! It feels like something that doesn't really happen in "this day and age" b/c of technology and health care, but it sure could!

4:24 AM  

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