Flu pandemic preparedness media briefing
We must prepare for a flu pandemic before it actually happens.
Here, I have just signed an agreement with Roche which will help us with this.
I want to thank Roche for this donation of 3 million treatments of the antiviral - oseltamivir - or, Tamiflu. Roche will make these antivirals available when we decide that getting these to the site of an outbreak would help slow or stop the spread of a potential pandemic influenza strain. We will work with the affected countries to deliver the medicines to the people who need them.
This could give us time to develop and produce an effective vaccine, and time for countries to implement other emergency measures, such as ensuring enough medical staff and facilities are available, and preventing spread by closing schools or other public places.
I must be very clear that antivirals are just one part of a comprehensive preparedness plan. Let me emphasize that this stockpile is a first step, it does not replace the urgent need for countries to develop their own pandemic preparedness plans.
Preparing the world for a pandemic strain of influenza is a WHO priority. It must also be a priority for every country in the world. Coordinated and effective action can reduce the death, suffering and social disruption a pandemic would otherwise cause.
The virus is entrenched in parts of Asia. New outbreaks have recently been confirmed in birds in Kazakhstan, Mongolia and the Russian Federation.
112 human cases have been reported from Viet Nam, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia and 57 people have died.
Frankly, however, the surveillance system is still not strong enough to detect every human case. We urgently need to improve the early warning system to detect outbreaks in animals and humans. This is an essential prerequisite for using the antiviral most effectively. We need to coordinate research and accelerate the development of pandemic vaccine. We need to provide incentives to poorer countries to become more involved in an international effort.
Dr Margaret Chan is my representative for pandemic influenza and is working on ways that WHO can help countries prepare for a flu pandemic.
I want to stress that international cooperation is extremely important. An influenza pandemic will not discriminate between those who live in mansions and those who live in slums.