H5N1 Is Coming, Signs Are Very Clear

An Indonesian teenager is feared to have become the 65th person killed by bird flu as the World Bank called on Wednesday for up to $1 billion (573 million pounds) to prevent the virus spawning a pandemic in which millions could die.

The news of another death blamed on bird flu came as health experts in Geneva put the finishing touches to a strategy to halt the spread of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus.

An initial test showed a 16-year-old girl who died this week had bird flu, an Indonesian health ministry official said.

“The test result showed positive, but we’re still waiting for confirmation from Hong Kong,” Hariadi Wibisono, a senior official at the health ministry, told Reuters.

The victim lived in an East Jakarta suburb near a bird market and had chickens and pet birds in her house. However, no evidence of contact with an infected bird has been established.

The H5N1 virus is endemic in poultry in much of Asia and has killed more than 60 people there. It has recently been detected in birds in eastern Europe and there are fears migrating birds could carry it to the Middle East and Africa.

The virus remains hard for humans to catch. But scientists say the virus, like all influenza viruses, is steadily mutating and could acquire the genetic changes that make it easy to pass among humans.

U.S. President George W. Bush said next week’s summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum leaders could be seen as a platform to control the spread of bird flu.

“If it happens anywhere, China and the United States, Japan and South Korea, ASEAN countries, APEC countries, everyone is going to have to work together to identify, contain and respond to an outbreak,” Bush told reporters.

Source: Reuters

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