Bird flu to result in pandemic, WHO says

The head of the World Health Organization's global influenza program has nominated the bird flu virus in Asia as the most likely cause of the world's next &to=' target=_blank>flu pandemic.

Dr. Klaus Stohr said there is no question about whether there will be another pandemic, the only question is when.

He made the remark at a meeting of health ministers and officials from 13 countries in Bangkok, informs CBC News.

According to Xinhua, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday called for enhanced collaboration efforts among Asian countries in fighting &to=' target=_blank>bird flu, especially on epidemiological surveillance in humans and animals.

At the opening ceremony of the WHO and ASEAN +3 Health Ministers' Meeting on Avian Influenza, Thaksin said collaborative efforts needed to be reinforced to create an effective early warning and response system both at the national and regional levels in a bid to contain bird flu.

The first wave of avian influenza outbreak in Thailand at the beginning of the year led to the culling of 30 million birds inside the kingdom. As the epidemic was rekindled in July, severalmore million birds were destroyed again.

On a wider scale, the recent outbreak of bird flu has caused serious economic consequence to countries in the Asian region withthe loss of more than 100 million poultry. Since January 2004, Thailand and Vietnam have reported 44 humancases of avian influenza with 32 reported deaths. In Thailand alone, 17 human cases have been confirmed of avian influenza with 11 deaths.

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919 killed upwards of 20 million people and WHO experts say the next could infect up to 30 percent of the world's more than 6 billion people and kill up to 7 million of them.

Omi said that to stave that off, the world would have to cooperate closely by sharing information promptly and openly on the virus -- such as how it spreads, why it hits children more easily than adults and how quickly it is mutating.

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