The risk of a flu pandemic remains high despite possible public fatigue with the issue, but the WHO is hopeful the bird flu virus will do less damage than in past years during Asia’s upcoming colder months, an official said yesterday.
“The virus seems to be very embedded in the environment and, in our view, the risk of a pandemic continues unabated,” Richard Nesbit, WHO’s acting regional director for the Western Pacific, told reporters prior to a weeklong meeting in Auckland, New Zealand.
“Recently, we’ve seen new outbreaks in poultry in Cambodia and also in Thailand, besides seeing continuing outbreaks in Indonesia,” he said.
Bird flu is expected to be one of the top items discussed for the third straight year at the annual WHO regional meeting, which helps set the organization’s strategic agenda. The H5N1 virus has killed at least 144 people since it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003, and experts worry more fatalities will emerge as the cooler months approach.