Global plan agreed to fight bird flu

International health experts have agreed on a global strategy to tackle the spread of bird flu, with the World Bank estimating it will cost up to $1 billion over three years to prevent its spread.

    Health experts called for joint action to contain the H5N1 virus

    Wrapping up three days of talks on Wednesday in Geneva, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Lee Jong-Wook said the strategy covered various aspects.

    These included minimising the virus threat at source in animals and humans, strengthening early warning systems, strengthening veterinary services, improving countries' pandemic preparedness, making access to anti-viral drugs fairer and more research into pandemic vaccines.
       
    "This meeting had identified a series of integrated actions that will start straight away," he said.

    The agreement comes as health officials in Indonesia said they feared a teenager there had become the 65th person killed by bird flu.

    An initial test showed the 16-year-old girl who died this week had the virus, an Indonesian health ministry official said.

    "The test result showed positive, but we're still waiting for confirmation from Hong Kong," Hariadi Wibisono, a senior official at the health ministry, said. 

    Inadequate surveillance   

    China says it is facing a serious
    situation from the outbreaks  

    Many poor Asian nations lack adequate surveillance and reporting mechanisms and cannot compensate farmers for poultry culls.

    Africa, which many experts believe will be the next front line in the fight against bird flu, faces similar problems.

    In China, which has seen several outbreaks among domestic and wild flocks of birds, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called on the nation to intensify efforts to fight bird flu.

    Speaking on an inspection tour of an affected province he said China was facing a "very serious situation", Xinhua news agency reported.

    "Bird flu has not been totally controlled in China and the danger of its spread still exists in some areas," Wen said.

    A donor conference is set for 17-18 January in Beijing.

    Financial framework
       

    The spread of the virus has led to 
    the culling of 150 million birds

    The World Bank has proposed a financing framework, which it said would be focused on funding "country-owned programmes" to combat the spread of the H5N1 virus, which has led to the culling of 150 million birds. 
       
    The World Bank has said its package would contain both grants or interest-free loans for countries, while half of the $1 billion needed will be funded by a trust financed by donors.

    At least $35 million will be needed urgently to fund action over the next six months, Lee said.

    "The world recognises that this is a major public health challenge," said Lee.

    "Once a pandemic virus appears, it will be too late." He added.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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