News

UN:  Avian Flu Not as Serious as First Feared

Faith Lapidus

Delegates from 111 countries met in New Delhi, India, the first week of December to assess the progress in combating avian flu and the preparations for a human influenza pandemic. Two of the public health officials leading that effort summarized the results of the conference at a news briefing in Washington. As we hear from Faith Lapidus, they reported progress, but said there was still a long way to go.

Since it was first diagnosed in Asia in 1996, the virus that causes avian influenza, or bird flu, has forced the destruction of millions of infected poultry flocks in nearly 60 countries. More than 200 people have died after contracting the so-called H5N1 virus.

Bird flu is a problem that will likely be with us for some years to come, according to David Nabarro, senior coordinator for avian and human influenza at the United Nations. But citing data on the spread of the H5N1 virus from 146 nations, Nabarro emphasized the positive. "The first thing to say is that the situation has changed, between 2004 and 2007, the rate at which new countries are being affected by H5N1 has reduced, we've got a bit of a plateauing [leveling out], the number of human cases, which act as a sentinel, has slightly decreased, and the human deaths have also decreased." He said that broad epidemiological evidence suggests that the H5N1 virus situation is not quite so serious.

The virus, however, is still being actively transmitted in at least six countries, and there are new reports (December 16) of human infection and death in Burma and Pakistan. At the Washington briefing, Nabarro stressed the importance of maintaining focus, funding and political will to keep H5N1 under control.

And John Lange, who leads the U.S. government's avian influenza program, told reporters that the global campaign to stop avian flu goes beyond dealing with individual outbreaks. "What we've really been trying to do, when possible," he explained, "is to build long-term capacity, both on the veterinary side and on the human health side, through increased levels of surveillance, training of veterinarians and epidemiologists, building up laboratories, etcetera."

And Lange observed that international cooperation on bird flu has already had a positive impact on overall public health preparedness. "If there were a new disease that just emerged tomorrow, but it was totally different from H5N1 — maybe something that came out and had the ability for sustained and efficient human-to-human transmission — the best entities able to cope with it in terms of the networks that have been built up would often be those that are now working on the avian and pandemic influenza threats."

Lange stressed the importance of those networks within governments, as well as between them. He pointed to Washington's integrated approach to dealing with a pandemic. It involves every agency of the government, Lange said, not just those responsible for public health, because a very serious pandemic will affect every aspect of society. "It will involve the difficulties you may have when you go to that ATM (automated cash dispensing) machine and it hasn't been filled with money because the people have been sick from work and couldn't fill it with money. It will affect our financial systems.

"It will affect the Internet. Everybody may be staying home from work for a while and swamp the Internet. There are all kinds of complications that occur that are far beyond the mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services or the mandate of the World Health Organization. And that's why," he concluded, "even though this is a human health threat, if the pandemic were to occur, it really requires much broader coordination."

And the U.N.'s David Nabarro added that because the impact of an avian flu pandemic would be so wide-spread, local communities, civic groups and public utilities must also play a role in preparing for it. "The ability to deal with these threats does not come just from the action of governments," he observed. "It comes from increasing resilience in communities so they can handle not just the disease threats from animals, but also that they are capable of maintaining continuity (of public services) under these conditions."

While acknowledging the threats posed by war and global warming, Nabarro insisted that the biggest danger mankind faces today is almost invisibly small. "It's microbes, particularly microbes that come from the animal kingdom, that represent one of the greatest threats to humanity and certainly even to its survival as we know it."

The discussion of global efforts to combat avian influenza will continue at an international conference in Cairo now scheduled for October.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs