23 February 2005

An Overdue Pandemic?

No less than Dr.Shigeru Omi, the Regional Director of the Western Pacific Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO) based here in the Philippines, warns that the world is about to face a pandemic if it does not "act swiftly."

World Must Act on Bird Flu or Face Pandemic --- U.N.
By Darren Schuettler
Feb 23, 2005 12:38 AM ET

HO CHI MINH CITY (Reuters) --- The world is overdue for an influenza pandemic and must act swiftly if it is to prevent one being triggered by the bird flu now endemic in parts of Asia where it has killed 46 people, U.N. officials said on Wednesday.

"The world is now in the gravest possible danger of a pandemic," Shigeru Omi, the head of the World Health Organization in Asia, said at a bird flu conference in Vietnam, the country hardest hit by the H5N1 virus.

The world usually had a pandemic every 20 or 30 years, but it has been 40 since the last one, he said.

The "versatile and very resilient" bird flu virus that swept through large parts of Asia at the end of 2003 would be the source of the next one without concerted action, he said.

Joseph Domenech of the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization called specifically on rich, developed countries to do more.

"If they don't do more, sooner or later the problem could appear in their place," he told the conference in Ho Chi Minh City, home to 10 million people and close to the Mekong Delta where Vietnam's latest outbreaks began in December.

[Reuters Health]

Last December, the bookofjoe had a post similar to this one and with a similar mention of Dr.Shigeru Omi's dreadful warning.

It might seem amusing that the survival of a big fraction of today's population rests in the hands (wings?!?) of chickens here in the Asian region, but if we are really to make sure no pandemic occurs, we must not leave anything to chance.

The leading world health authorities have blown their trumpets, and we must all work and collaborate with neighboring countries on how to prevent this dreadful pandemic.

A good start would be develop an effective vaccine. I know, this can be very tricky, because the bird flu virus might mutate so fast and render any new vaccine ineffective even before it can be administered.

We really have to do something while it's still early.

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