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WHO Urges Stepping Up Measures to Detect Bird Flu

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The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday called for stepping up surveillance in Asia to detect quickly any sign of the deadly bird flu infecting humans.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday called for stepping up surveillance in Asia to detect quickly any sign of the deadly bird flu infecting humans.In a statement posted on its Web Site, the United Nations agency also urged countries with recent outbreaks to share virus samples and clinical specimens with WHO laboratories to determine whether they are facing the same strain.Control measures, including providing workers involved in culling infected birds with antivirals as well as a vaccine against human influenza, were needed, it said.The H5N1 strain of bird flu that killed 24 people in Southeast Asia early this year has erupted on poultry farms in Thailand and China, but both countries said on Wednesday the outbreaks were under control.Its re-emergence in the last two weeks suggested that the virus is “more widespread than previously thought…and therefore it may be more difficult to eliminate,” the WHO said.China culled more than 20,000 chickens in central Anhui province to isolate a new outbreak of bird flu, a local official said on Thursday.The WHO praised Chinese officials for having been quick to use effective risk management tools, including culling, stringent biosecurity measures and vaccination.”While this approach can still take months or even years to contain the virus completely, these methods have been effective in the past,” the Geneva-based agency said.An epidemic earlier this year that killed 24 people in Southeast Asia where 100 million fowl died or were culled, was blamed on migratory birds.The fresh outbreaks “could either be new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) virus or a continuation of the outbreaks first reported earlier in the year,” the WHO said.WHO and other health experts have warned that bird flu can spark a deadly human influenza pandemic with high morbidity and mortality rates if it jumps the species barrier and mutates to acquire full capacity for human to human transmission.”The risk of emergence of a new human pandemic virus will remain as long as the avian influenza virus exists in the environment,” WHO said on Thursday.Two recent scientific research reports — about the virus becoming increasingly pathogenic and also more widespread in birds in the region — have fueled WHO’s concern about the threat which the virus poses to human health, it said.The journal Nature this week published a report indicating that domestic and wild birds in the region may have contributed to the increasing spread of the virus, suggesting that the virus was “gaining a stronger foothold in the region,” WHO said. (Source: Reuters, July 2004)

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Posted On: 9 July, 2004
Modified On: 4 December, 2013

Created by: myVMC