WHO Warns Europe About H5N1

FT.com reports that the WHO is once again warning Europe about the possibility of the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain spreading.
The deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza is making a seasonal resurgence in Asia and could easily spread to Europe again this year, the World Health Organisation warned on Sunday.

The alarm follows four human deaths in Indonesia in the last five days, the first human case in China for six months (though the infected man has since recovered) and new poultry outbreaks in Vietnam despite a huge campaign against it and northern Nigeria.

"We are convinced that we're in a repeat of last year and the year before when the virus began to get very active again [in the northern hemisphere winter] and spread from Asia into the Middle East and beyond," said Peter Cordingley, the WHO spokesman for the western Pacific region.

Indonesia, where 61 people have died since 2005, remained the "biggest flashpoint" but nowhere in the region "has got it licked". "Most countries are becoming better prepared and the countries that were caught out last year, especially wealthier ones in Europe and close to Europe, we hope are going to be better prepared," he said. "But we're still losing more than we're winning."
The major worry continues to be that the H5N1 virus will mutate into a strain that spread easily from human-to-human.

Posted on January 17, 2007

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