Avian influenza

How healthy is your world?

"This year, most attention should be given to bird flu," -- Philippines

"Are developing countries sufficiently prepared in case of [an avian flu pandemic]?" -- Eve Bardelli, France

"In this age of instant travel around the globe, communicable diseases must be the top priority for WHO," -- Leah D Lukins, United States of America

Your number one health concern was avian influenza. The H5N1 avian influenza virus has affected relatively few people so far (138 cases, including 71 deaths, as of 15 December), but has had a major impact on the poultry and overall agricultural sectors. Critically, for human health, the major concern is that this virus could evolve into a form capable of sparking a human influenza pandemic. Given the nature of influenza, the speed and volume of international air travel today, a pandemic virus could spread rapidly, possibly reaching all continents in less than three months.

Controlling and monitoring avian influenza and preparing for a future influenza pandemic are top priorities for WHO. During 2005, WHO has worked closely with partners to improve surveillance for animal and human influenza, to analyse whether the H5N1 virus is evolving, and to help countries to prepare for an influenza pandemic. Keeping you informed of ongoing developments through the WHO website is a priority for WHO.

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