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Countries Step up Battle Against Bird Flu

Rich nations have promised to step up the cash flow for fighting bird flu on Friday, and the World Bank estimated that $1.5 billion is needed to fight the pandemic on a global scale.//

Most of the funds would be needed in East Asia and the Pacific region, followed by Europe and Central Asia, and then Africa. Latin America is considered low risk and if the disease were to spread to the region it would most likely originate from an infection in North America.

The European Union has already pledged $100 million towards measures to contain bird flu. Separately, Japan has pledged $155 million, and officials said the US was gearing up to pledge at least $250 million.

With tens of millions of birds being culled worldwide and countries scrambling to stockpile the anti-viral drug, the bank has cautioned that its analysis was only an initial estimate, as it was impossible to anticipate when a pandemic may occur, or how severe it could be. It had developed the cost estimate with guidance from lead agencies such as the World Health Organization and the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.

"While precise figures are difficult to estimate, the burden on health systems is likely to be considerable," the bank said.

Funds will be needed for animal and human health alike, and to build stockpiles of the antiviral drug to treat H5N1 victims. The virus still mostly affects birds, but which has infected about 150 people and killed at least 78. Now fears of mutations in the H5N1 strain are bothering scientists.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has sent a team of experts to Turkey to fight a growing outbreak there. They will join experts already on hand from the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Turkey is culling more and more birds to try to stop the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus from preading further. So are some of its fearful neighbors.
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