Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Bird flu outbreaks set to rise, according to UN

The world should expect more bird flu outbreaks in the coming winter months,

the UN official co-ordinating the global fight against the virus warned today.

Dr David Nabarro spoke out after Britain recorded its first case of the H5N1

strain on a commercial farm.

However, he stressed that he did not expect the virus to spread in Britain to

neighbouring farms because of the quick containment measures put in place by the

government.

"This should mean that there won't therefore be spread ... into other parts

in the vicinity," he said in an interview in Indonesia, the country worst hit

by the bird flu.

"That is what I hope, but of course we will see over the next few days."

He said countries around the world where the virus was not endemic would

likely see more cases in poultry in the first half of this year, mostly spread

by migrating birds.

"I am expecting to see outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in a

number of locations over the next three or four months, and I am basing it on

what happened last year," he said, stressing that the risk to human health

remained very small.

Nabarro said a recent spike in human deaths in Indonesia meant the country

must do more to fight the virus despite improving its efforts in recent months,

including the cull of backyard chickens in the capital last week.

``Just at the moment there are rather a lot of (cases) ... so that is why

everybody needs to be a little anxious about what is happening and everybody

needs to be forceful on moving rapidly and strongly forward with intensifying

measures.''

H5N1 has prompted the slaughter of millions of birds across Asia since late

2003, and caused the deaths of more than 160 people worldwide, around a third of

them in Indonesia, according to the World Health Organisation.

Most people killed so far have been infected by domestic fowl and the virus

remains very hard for humans to catch. But experts fear it could mutate into a

form that easily spreads among humans, sparking a pandemic with the potential to

kill millions.

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