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WHO Says Travelers Could Spread Avian Flu in NZ

Shigeru Omi, a senior World Health Organization’s (WHO) Western Pacific regional director said that overseas travelers could result// in an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu in New Zealand.

He doubted any human pandemic of the disease would begin in New Zealand and that its arrival in the South Pacific country from migratory birds was not so likely.

At a news conference in Wellington he said that the avian flu would most likely to be carried by travelers to New Zealand.

He also said that the chances of the birds bringing in the disease were very slim. He pointed out to the statistics which said that the disease has killed at least 92 people since 2003, spreading from Asia to the Middle East and reaching Europe this year with wild bird migrations.

Experts fear it might mutate into a form that can be easily passed between humans, sparking a pandemic in which millions could die.

Omi said the vital factor to halt any pandemic would be early detection. He said that New Zealand was well equipped to tackle the disease when it steps inside the country.

Prevention and precautionary techniques such as provision of anti-viral drugs and restriction of movement among the people should be strictly followed to prevent the further spread of the disease.

New Zealand's Health Minister Pete Hodgson said the country's public health system was focusing on human detection as part of its normal scrutiny of people showing influenza symptoms in the winter months.


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