WHO believes bird flu pandemic can still be prevented

The World Health Organization said Tuesday it believes a bird flu pandemic can still be prevented if authorities are ready to implement rapid containment measures, from the large-scale distribution of anti-viral drugs to the closure of schools.

WHO's regional director, Dr. Shigeru Omi, told a seminar in the Indonesian capital that if such interventions are successful "we may prevent hundreds of millions of serious human infections and millions of deaths."

"But if we fail, the consequences for societies, economies and global health could be immeasurable," he said.

So far, the H5N1 bird flu virus, which is not yet pandemic flu because it doesn't move easily between people, has infected 204 people and killed 113, according to WHO. Most of the human cases have been in Asia, but birds with the disease have been found in Europe.

"We still believe it is possible to stop or delay a pandemic by implementing rapid containment measures very quickly," Omi said. "These measures may include the large-scale administration of anti-viral drugs, quarantine, travel restrictions and social distancing, such as the closure of schools," reports the AP.

I.L.