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World plans poorly for bird flu

18th October 2006

A third of countries which have drawn up flu pandemic plans have failed to set out how they would distribute medical treatment, a report has found.

Researchers at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Ben Gurion University Israel studied 45 national pandemic plans. They warned resources would be scarce, so decisions on who should get drugs or vaccines should be made in advance, as prioritising treatment could help reduce death and disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged every country to develop and maintain a national plan on bird flu. It also recommends nations prioritise the allocation of pharmaceutical resources among the population.

Researchers looked at 19 plans from developed nations and 26 from developing countries. In total, these represented around two-thirds of the world's population - 3.8bn people.

The report, Priority Setting for Pandemic Influenza: An Analysis of National Preparedness Plans, found almost half of the plans they examined favoured antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu, while 62% prioritised giving citizens a flu vaccine.

This was an unexpected finding, researchers said, as antiviral treatment may be the only pharmaceutical intervention available in some countries, and no more than 14% of the world's population could expect to be vaccinated within a year of pandemic.

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