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Speed up bird flu vaccine, Bush tells experts

The prospects of a bird flu pandemic has created a stir worldwide with US President George Bush getting in on the act and urging vaccine developers to speed up the process of developing a vaccine to combat the same. //

Representatives of more than 80 countries and international organizations met in Washington on Thursday to discuss ways to prevent bird flu pandemic. Health officials including those from the World Health Organization (WHO) have raised the specter of millions of deaths if the pandemic does start. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is also collaborating with WHO to take steps to ward off an outbreak. The International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza was born at the UN Summit last month and its first plenary meeting was held on Thursday. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt welcomed the participants and said, "Let us remember our objective is not simply to defeat H-Five-N-One. It is to be prepared for whatever comes. Because at some point we will most certainly have to use our preparation," he said.

Avian flu has primarily affected the Southeast Asian nations although it is largely limited to poultry and wild-bird populations. Experts fear that the H5N1 virus is on the verge of undergoing mutation, thus making it easier to spread from birds to humans. In the event of this happening the impact worldwide would be tremendous, experts say. And since there is no vaccine or drug to treat the condition, the loss of life would be unprecedented.

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