Health Officials Say World is One Step from Avian Flu Pandemic

International health officials touring Southeast Asian nations have issued blunt warnings that the avian flu virus could mutate and infect large numbers of people.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Michael Leavitt, and World Health Organization (WHO) Director General, Dr. Jong Woo Lee, are in Thailand, the first stop on a four-nation tour to shore up cooperation to contain the avian flu virus.  

The virulent strain of bird flu, called H5N1, has swept through poultry populations in Asia since 2003.  At least 62 people in the region have died from the virus and tens of millions of birds have been killed in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading in bird populations.

Those people who died in Asia had come in contact with infected birds.  And, so far there has been no evidence that the virus is transmitted person-to-person.  Dr. Lee says millions of people could die if the virus mutates into a form that spreads easily among people.  

"The burning question is, you know, will there be a human influenza pandemic?” said Dr. Lee. “I believe, on behalf of WHO, I can tell you that there will be. And right now the only one condition missing is the virus that is rapidly transmitted from human to human."

Secretary Leavitt says scientists have developed a vaccine for the avian flu, but the dosage for effectively combating the disease is six to twelve times that of the vaccines currently used for seasonal influenza. 

Mr. Leavitt encouraged nations to develop their own vaccine production facilities, because the likelihood of a human flu pandemic is very high.  "We don't have sufficient manufacturing capability because of the amount that it takes to create a vaccine for even every person in the United States, let alone the world."

And the bird flu keeps spreading.  In the past few days, the avian flu was detected in two European nations.  Officials restricted access to a Romanian village after three ducks were found dead from the virus.  And in Turkey, 3,000 turkeys and chickens were culled after another 1800 turkeys died of the disease last week.  To prevent the further spread of the disease, Turkish officials have indicated they will continue to kill poultry in the affected area for the next three weeks. 

On Monday, The European Union announced a ban on all imports of live birds and feathers from Turkey.  Results of tests on the Romanian and Turkish fowl should be available by October 12th.  At that time officials should known whether the birds were infected by the H5N1 virus or another strain of bird flu. 

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs