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World Bank Says $1.5 Billion More Needed for Bird Flu Battle

Bird flu experts from 100 countries are calling for much more to be done to prevent the disease from spreading in Africa. Jordan Davis reports from VOA's West Africa bureau the experts are meeting in Bamako, Mali.

The World Bank is calling for an additional $1.5 billion to fight avian flu. One-third of the funds are to be directed to sub-Saharan Africa during the next few years.

This year $96 million has been spent on bird flu prevention in Africa.

The H5N1 virus has been detected in eight countries on the continent since February and African Union officials announced during the conference that new outbreaks are still occurring in Nigeria, Egypt and Sudan.

Alex Thiermann of the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health says many African countries need to strengthen their veterinary infrastructure.

"We should focus and concentrate our resources into fighting it in poultry so that does not threaten other countries and minimize the chance it becomes a pandemic threat," he said.

Many experts are concerned the virus might mutate into a form more easily spread among humans.

The World Health Organization says the disease has killed at least 154 people worldwide since it first appeared in Asia in 2003.

The H5N1 virus has had a severe impact on poultry farmers. One of the main methods for preventing the spread of infection is killing birds that have been exposed.

The World Bank estimates 250,000 birds have been killed worldwide either by the disease or as a preventative measure.