New bird flu outbreak in China reined in
Updated: 2005-10-26 05:41
Scientists fear the current H5N1 strain may mutate, acquiring genes from the
human influenza virus that would make it highly infectious as well as lethal --
possibly killing millions worldwide.
Health ministers and experts from 30 countries are meeting in Canada's
capital Ottawa to forge a coordinated international effort against the virus,
aiming to advance global preparations for a flu pandemic.
Several countries have already announced plans to build stocks of antiviral
drugs and vaccines to combat the threat. Governments also have destroyed some
140 million birds wherever the virus has been found.
"All of these measures are good, but they are only the second line of
defense," FAO head Jacques Diouf told AFP. "The real battleground is on the
The Asian Development Bank warned Tuesday that a severe outbreak of avian
influenza could cost the Asia-Pacific region alone between 250 billion and 290
According to its preliminary estimates, the Manila-based bank believes that
even a relatively mild pandemic could cost the region around 90-110 billion
dollars due to the effects of reduced consumption, investment and trade.
The bank said the various stages of a growing human pandemic would have
widespread and serious implications for economic development and the welfare of
people in the region and beyond, with health systems overwhelmed.
After its emergence in Asia in 2003, the H5N1 strain finally jumped to Europe
this month with outbreaks reported in Turkey, Romania and Russia's south Urals
region of Chelyabinsk.
By the end of last week, a South American parrot died in quarantine in
Britain of the deadly strain. Bird flu -- but not the H5N1 strain -- was
confirmed in dead birds in Croatia and Sweden.
Authorities in Britain are exploring a possible Taiwanese link because the
parrot, which arrived in the country on September 16, had been exposed to other
birds from Taiwan while in mandatory quarantine.
But Taipei has not reported any domestic cases of the disease and it called
the comments by the British authorities "irresponsible".
Nevertheless, Taiwan Tuesday staged emergency drills of environmental
protection officials and street cleaners on how to handle suspect chickens.
In response to the British case, the European Commission said it will call
for a complete ban on wild bird imports, as it races to erect barriers against