UN expert says bird flu "deeply embedded" in Asia
Updated: 2005-10-21 11:29
Bird flu is deeply entrenched in bird populations across Asia, and China and
other countries have a big challenge on their hands fighting the disease, a top
U.N. health official said on Friday.
David Nabarro, who has said up to 150 million people could die in a flu
pandemic if the H5N1 virus that causes bird flu mutates into a deadlier form
that spreads more easily among humans, urged Beijing to keep up its guard.
China says the situation will be very grave over the coming months of autumn
"All countries in this region are facing considerable challenges to do with
H5N1-caused influenza," said Nabarro, senior U.N. coordinator for avian and
human influenza, referring to a strain believed to have killed 67 people.
"These are substantial because the
epidemic is really quite deeply embedded into the domestic and industrial bird
A Chinese woman feeds her ducks and geese at a
market in Shanghai, China October 20, 2005.
Nabarro met China's health minister and its chief veterinary officer on
Thursday, and said he was confident the country was being open about the
But he also said China, which reported a new outbreak of bird flu north of
Beijing this week, and other countries must stay on the lookout for fresh
"Surveillance has to be extremely widespread and very good," Nabarro told
reporters in Beijing. "This is a big challenge.
"As the issue gets higher political and epidemological priority, so the
intensity with which personnel in charge are in regular contact with the people
who do the work is going to increase.
"You've got to give the issue a high priority. They've got other issues on
their plate that they'll perhaps have to give slightly less priority to."
His warning came as a senior Chinese official also said that halting the
disease has become increasingly urgent.
Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu on Thursday vowed the government would do
its utmost to keep bird flu from spreading to people. Xinhua news agency said he
was passing instructions straight from President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen
"China is prone to bird flu outbreaks in autumn and winter. The situation is
very grave," state radio quoted Hui was as saying at a special cabinet meeting
on preventing and controlling the disease.
China may have been a host or way-station for migratory ducks and geese that
brought the disease to Europe. This week, Russia Turkey and Romania confirmed
outbreaks of the flu, and experts have warned migratory birds may now carry it
to Africa and the Middle East.
But the complex, overlapping patterns of the birds' flights make it difficult
to predict when and where the disease will next appear, said Guan Yi, an expert
on the virus at the University of Hong Kong.
"We know some of their movements," Guan said of the migrating birds. "But we
are not experts and the climate is changing quickly, making it more difficult to
Chinese officials have said they will fully cooperate with the United Nations
in tracking and fighting bird flu.