U.N.: Bird flu will cost another $1.3 billion, despite progress

Tuesday, November 28th 2006, 10:41 pm
By: News On 6

UNITED NATIONS (AP) The U.N. on Tuesday reported progress in the fight against the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, but said that risks remain and at least $1.3 billion is still needed as the virus threatens poor regions like Africa.

Dr. David Nabarro, senior U.N. system coordinator for avian flu and human influenza, said ``a lot has been achieved'' in bringing the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus under control, ``particularly in Southeast Asia, the Far East, and in Europe during the past few months.''

He told reporters that many Asian countries including Vietnam, Thailand and China have made substantial progress in programs to cull infected flocks and quickly control outbreaks of the virus. ``But I'm afraid that the danger is still very much there,'' Nabarro said.

In 2006, human infection rates increased over 2005, according to a report prepared for an international conference on avian influenza in Bamako, Mali, from December 6-8.

Over 250 people have been infected since 2003, with a fatality rate of over 60 percent.

Genetic mutations of the virus could cause the virus to spread between people, leading to a human pandemic.

An estimated $500 million annually over the next two to three years is needed to properly deal with the threat, according to the report prepared by the U.N. and the World Bank for the Bamako conference.

Nabarro lauded the international community for pledging $1.9 billion at a World Bank conference in Beijing in January, but said ``the needs, particularly of Africa, have not been met.''

But the report said the international community will be asked to pledge between $1.3 billion and $1.6 billion to fight avian flu over the next two or three years.