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Key to bird flu fight

4th December 2006

24052006_birdcages1.jpgThe world may need to spend an extra US $1.2-1.5 billion in the next 2-3 years on attempts to prevent bird flu turning into a global pandemic, and on emergency preparedness if it does, according to the World Bank.

Prompt, uniformly distributed payments to farmers whose birds are killed because of avian flu are needed to help battle the disease, according to a new World Bank-led report.

Funds to pay farmers whose birds are culled could encourage early reports of the disease, according to the report by the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Food Policy Research Institute.

In a report issued ahead of a bird flu conference in Mali, the Bank said its projections were for funding beyond the US $1.9 billion pledged in January in Beijing.

It calculated them as "a result of the rapid and sustained increase in animal and human outbreaks both within and across countries throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa", it said.

But it said they represented a fraction of the potential US $1.5-US $2 trillion costs of a severe human influenza pandemic.

Since 2003, the H5N1 strain of avian influenza has infected 258 people in 10 countries, with 154 known deaths from the virus.

Experts at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and elsewhere believe that the world is now closer to another influenza pandemic than at any time since 1968, when the last of the previous century's three pandemics occurred.


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