Developing countries attending a world summit on avian and human influenza say they are taking measures to combat bird flu to prevent the disease from spreading to humans. Hundreds of animal and health experts are working on a plan of action to prevent a human influenza pandemic at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva.
Developing countries affected by bird flu presented a reality check to those countries that do not yet have this problem, but are afraid of what might happen in the future.
Bui Ba Bong, Vice-Minister at the Ministry of Agricultural Development in Vietnam, a country severely affected by avian influenza over the past two years, says Vietnam has culled 45 million poultry, the highest number in the world and more than 40 people have died of bird flu, also the highest number in any country.
He says Vietnam's agricultural sector has lost $200 million and is spending $100 million on programs to combat avian influenza. "This year, for the first time, we adopted large-scale vaccination. With this practice and with early detection and culling and dis-infection of the disease area and isolation of the disease area, we hope that we will have more success," he said.
Migratory birds have brought the H5N1 avian flu virus from Asia to Europe and there are fears it might spread to Africa. Experts attending the meeting agree that the control of the virus in poultry and other birds should be the first line of defense in any plan to try to prevent the virus from becoming a human influenza pandemic.
Simon Kimani is Deputy Director of Veterinary Services in the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries in Kenya. Although his country, so far, does not have bird flu, he says Kenya takes the threat seriously.
"The risk is that currently the birds are coming from some of the affected countries. So, we feel threatened because we do not know whether they leave the virus back with us. As you are aware, they come and mix up with the local birds, so that is a big risk," he said.
Mr. Kimani says Kenya has established a multi-sectoral task force that is working on an emergency preparatory plan. He says teams have been set up to conduct surveillance of migratory birds and to check out local birds for any sign of the virus.
But, he and experts from other developing countries note they have very little money to do the job properly. He says one of the expectations he has of the meeting is a financial commitment from richer countries to help the poorer nations carry out programs essential for protecting animal and human health.