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Donor Nations Urged To Pledge More To Combat Bird Flu

An UN official said that donor nations should be prepared to pledge more money to combat bird flu as the H5N1 virus spreads more developing countries//.

Western and Asian donors had pledged $1.9 billion in January, during a conference in Beijing to combat bird flu and improve containment and prevention methods in 12 countries, mostly in Asia.

However, with the virus steadily spreading across the world through migratory birds, including infections in at least five African nations, health officials must reassess how much funding they will need to help developing nations that lack proper resources to detect, prevent and contain outbreaks, David Nabarro, the UN bird-flu coordinator, said at a press conference.

"The amount of H5N1 in birds is considerably more than it was a year ago," he stated.

The virus has killed at least 109 people who have come into contact with sick birds. International health officials fear H5N1, the strain of the virus that has been deadly in humans, will mutate into a form that can be transmitted from human to human and spark a global pandemic that could kill millions.

Nabarro, who is on a five-nation trip through Asia to assess bird-flu preparedness, warned in against prolonged debates on whether more money should be pledged so soon after the Beijing conference.

"The potential cost of a global influenza pandemic is massively greater than might be the amount required to meet an international threat," he said.

Health officials fear Asia might be "ground zero" for a human pandemic, and Nabarro outlined a "mixed report" on how well affected countries were coping.

--Edited IANS

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