New Zealand has chance of controlling bird flu pandemic

New Zealand has a better chance than most Asia-Pacific nations of controlling a possible bird flu pandemic, a top World Health Organization official said Monday.

WHO Regional Director Dr. Shigeru Omi said "very aggressive and prompt action" after a pandemic is first detected is key to containing it.

Experience with the virulent H5N1 bird flu virus so far suggests "we have perhaps two to three weeks to contain it successfully," Omi told a meeting of government officials and others in the capital, Wellington.

"If you miss this deadline the virus will spread throughout the country," he said.

Omi said New Zealand was among the best prepared of all nations in the region to fight a pandemic caused by bird flu or other viruses.

"It should be possible" for the island nation to contain any pandemic before it becomes widespread throughout the country, he said.

Nevertheless, New Zealand faces the same challenges as the rest of the world in fighting a pandemic, Omi said.

"We don't know when it will come and what kind of virus will emerge," he said.

Omi said he believed that any pandemic caused by the bird flu virus would probably be introduced to New Zealand by infected humans, not by migratory birds, reports the AP.


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