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Swift reaction and cooperation for bird flu needed in the region

Updated On: Jan 17, 2006

The World Bank has called for a swift reaction in combating bird flu in response to the latest outbreak in Turkey.

The statement came ahead of the World Bank, EU and Chinameeting next Tuesday to raise the 1.5 billion dollars needed to tackle the potential global catastrophe.

The avian virus, which first appeared in Southeast Asiain 2003 is especially deadly because people lack a natural immunity to it. It has killed about half of the 148 people who have contracted it, mainly in Southeast Asia, a region considered to be at greatest risk. The countries include VietnamThailandIndonesiaCambodia,Laosand Malaysia.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has now spread to Middle Eastand then to Europe. Experts do not rule out the possibility that it has also reached Africaand Latin America. Scientist fear the more the virus spreads, the greater the chance it will mutate into a form that is easily transmissible between humans.

“A global threat needs a global response. That is why it is important to mobilise international cooperation. It is better to spend now on controlling avian influenza at the source… than have to spend much more in a pandemic” European Union external affairs commissioner, Mr Waldner said.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang urged countries in the Asia-Pacific to step up cooperation to combat major threats especially bird flu. “The challenge is how we work together to deal with Avian flu and terrorism” he said at the 14th Annual Meeting of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum.

Uncertainty surrounds the bird flu as the issues involved are extraordinarily complex, encompassing medicine, epidemiology, virology and even politics and ethics. A pandemic will thus require triage on many levels, from allocation of scarce commodities to broader public policy choices and greater regional cooperation.

Sources:

* Hard Truths about bird flu (The Nation, 13 Jan)

* Interview: World Bank approves first bird flu funding (The Star, 13 Jan)

* Asia Pacific urged to cooperate in fight terrorism, bird flu (Xinhua, 16 Jan)

*World convenes on bird flu (AFP, 15 Jan)

*Indonesian girl dies of bird flu, siblings also ill (The JakartaPost, 16 Jan)

Chinahosts international meeting on fight to control bird flu (Bloomberg, 16 Jan)

*Countries step up bird flu battle (The Star, 14 Jan)

*Thai scientists developing vaccine (Bangkok Post, 14 Jan)