U.N.: Avian flu death toll still rising

Oct. 23, 2006 at 7:22 PM
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UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- The United Nations says the number of people around the world dying from avian flu continues to rise monthly.

David Nabarro, a senior U.N. health coordinator, Monday told reporters at U.N. World Headquarters in New York that more than 30 countries this year -- the highest in the organization's history -- had reported outbreaks of the disease, with more than 200 deaths since 2003.

Nabarro said this is a critical period which requires vigilance on the part of the United States and the rest of the Americas, considering the huge poultry density.

The virus, also known as H5N1, is not prevalent in the United States but could be if one bird becomes infected and spreads the disease to others, he said, adding that Indonesia continues to pose the greatest threat worldwide.

Other countries already affected by the virus range from China and Vietnam to Nigeria and Cameroon, Nabarro said.

He commended efforts made by countries to stem the spread of the virus and expressed satisfaction at fast-track responses to past outbreaks.

Africa also poses a major challenge to curbing the disease, he said, as recurring political and economic instability and lack of funding hamstring progress.

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