MANILA, Sept. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- World Health Organization Regional Director for the Western Pacific Shigeru Omi Monday called for health ministers and representatives to launch an all-out war on avian influenza (bird flu) and warned of new emerging diseases, according to a WHO news release reached here from Noumea, New Caledonia.
"While we still have a window of opportunity, we must do everything we can to avert an influenza pandemic as we simultaneously prepare for a worse-case scenario," Omi said in hisaddress to the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, WHO's governing body in the Region, which is holding its 56th session.
The avian influenza A (H5N1) virus, first detected in the Republic of Korea in December 2003, has now affected 11 countries,including Kazakhstan and Russia. Some of the countries affected donot have the resources to fully address the problems of prevention,surveillance, detection and outbreak control, Omi said.
A total of 112 infections and 57 deaths from avian influenza were recorded since the outbreak began, although Omi noted that the virus has not developed the ability to spread effectively from human to human.
The virus, meanwhile, remains resilient, unpredictable, unstable and extremely versatile, Omi added.
Besides fighting the earlier outbreak of SARS, this is the third consecutive year that the Western Pacific Region has battled a disease that has emerged from the animal world, Omi warned as he urged WHO member states to deal with new threats to public health.
More than 100 representatives, including a number of health ministers, are meeting in Noumea until Friday to review WHO's workin the Western Pacific Region and to discuss future health directions. Enditem