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Millions Needed for Global Plan to Halt Bird Flu


United Nations health officials say bird flu is entrenched in Asia and will take up to a decade to eradicate. The warning comes as three U.N. agencies announce a global plan to stop the spread of the virus and appeal for funds to implement the proposal.

The U.N. plan was unveiled on Tuesday, the second day of a three-day international bird flu summit in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

The summit was organized as concerns mount that the virus may mutate to a form easily transmitted between humans, and cause a global flu pandemic.

U.N. officials say Asian countries will need over $100 million from international donors as soon as possible to help bring the bird flu virus under control.

The U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), which jointly issued the plan with the World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health, says the funds are needed to vaccinate poultry, launch better surveillance systems, and train veterinary experts over the next three years.

Joseph Domenech, the chief veterinary officer for the FAO, who is attending the Kuala Lumpur summit, said no country is immune to the risk of bird flu. "The word global means also global geographically," he said. "It's an international crisis because no poultry producing country can pretend it's without any risk of introduction, this can happen any time and anywhere."

The global plan is now being distributed to international donors and U.N. officials say they expect half of the money asked for to be committed by the end of the year.

Since late 2003, dozens of people have died from the bird flu virus in Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia after coming into contact with infected birds.

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