Italy briefs UN Health Agency on its plans to fight bird flu

Italian health officials informed the World Health Organisation over Italy's plans in the event of an outbreak of the disease.

In the meantime a special EU summit on bird flu prevention and treatment being organised at the end of September in Brussels .

The European Commission - the EU's main executive arm - on Wednesday approved all the bird flu surveillance plans submitted by member states to fight the threat of the disease, a version of which has killed more than 60 people in Asia and evidence indicates is working towards Europe via Russia, borne by migratory birds. Scientists fear the virus may mutate to a form that can be transmitted from human to human, triggering a pandemic.

The European Commission has agreed to pay up to the half the costs of the EU nations' plans, allocating an initial 884,000 euros to these for the period from July 2005 to January 2006. Italy is to receive 87,000 euros.

EU health and consumer protection commissioner Markos Kyprianou said his main concern is the bloc's ability to produce enough vaccine, to stockpile it, and for each EU country to be able to distribute it quickly if an outbreak occurred.

Governments must do more to prepare for possible bird flu pandemic by making pre-purchase deals with pharmaceutical firms to buy vaccines when these become available, said Kyprianou.

Last week, EU experts approved new guidelines to help track potentially deadly bird flu among wild birds more closely, the AKI reports.

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