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$500 Million Pledged to Combat Bird Flu


International donors have pledged nearly $500 million for global efforts to combat the spread of bird flu.

United Nations influenza coordinator David Nabarro welcomed the new funding Friday - the final day of a three-day conference on bird flu in Mali. Officials said the top donors were the United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan.

This new money is in addition to $1.9 billion pledged at a summit in Beijing last January.

Experts at the conference expressed concern about a potential outbreak of bird flu in Africa, saying the continent lacks well-developed animal health services.

Since February, the deadly H5N1 strain has been detected in eight African nations, forcing health officials to kill millions of birds.

Health experts fear the virus may mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans.

The World Health Organization has reported more than 250 confirmed cases of bird flu in humans, and more than 150 deaths, mainly in Asia.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.