Home>News Center>World

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 and winter.

"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.

A Chinese woman feeds her ducks and geese at a market in Shanghai, China October 20, 2005.
A Chinese woman feeds her ducks and geese at a market in Shanghai, China October 20, 2005. [Reuters]
"These are substantial because the epidemic is really quite deeply embedded into the domestic and industrial bird population."

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 disease.

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 outbreaks.

"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 Jiabao.

"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 assess."

Chinese officials have said they will fully cooperate with the United Nations in tracking and fighting bird flu.

Hurricane Wilma batters Florida
All 117 feared dead in Nigerian plane crash
Quake relief inadequate, UN says
  Today's Top News     Top World News

Anniversary of Taiwan's recovery celebrated



New bird flu outbreak in China reined in



Singapore PM: China's growth 'good for Asia'



US to transfer nuclear reactor tech to China



Koizumi still hopes for summit with China



Rails seizure shakes a nation's conscience


  Draft Constitution adopted by Iraqi voters
  Iraqi death toll much higher than US
  Bird flu conference defers to WHO for preparedness
  Japan extradites two in alleged 9/11 fraud
  Gitmo hunger striker wants tube removed
  Islamic Jihad leader buried amid violence
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
China step up efforts in bird flu fight
Thailand confirms 13th bird flu death
2,600 birds dead of bird flu in China
  News Talk  
  Are the Republicans exploiting the memory of 9/11?