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Global bird flu strategy being developed
Charlene Porter

INTERNATIONAL health organisations will meet November 07-09 in Geneva to produce a plan of action for preventing an avian influenza pandemic.
The sponsoring agencies -- the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) -- say they plan to title the meeting, "The H5N1 Agenda: Towards a global strategy."
The WHO reported October 26 that the meeting's purpose will be to develop a dual strategy to control avian influenza at its source in animals, and at the same time prepare for pandemic influenza in humans.
The largest outbreak of avian influenza ever to occur has been causing sickness and death among birds in Southeast Asia since late 2003.
The H5N1 influenza virus that has caused the death or destruction of more than 150 million birds now has appeared in areas as distant from Southeast Asia as Turkey and Croatia.
The virus also has some capability to infect humans, with 121 cases reported in four nations, resulting in 62 fatalities. Health authorities warn that if the virus becomes contagious among humans, a flu pandering could result, with the potential to cause millions of deaths globally.
The November 07-09 meeting in Geneva aims to identify the progress and the needs in mustering an international response to this public health situation, according to the October 26 WHO announcement.
"The U.S. government has devoted a total of some $38 million to our international efforts to support the most affected countries, which are in need of capacity building: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia," said Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky October 21 at a press briefing on her return from a Southeast Asia trip focused on the issue.
News release: The Public Affairs Section of the US-Embassy in Dhaka