Avian flu has now claimed its tenth victim, having spread across all of South-East Asia, from South Korea to Indonesia, from Pakistan to Japan.
10 countries affected, 10 deaths.
Ministers from the ten countries affected have held a summit on how best to deal with the crisis after two more deaths were reported in Vietnam, from the A5N1 strain of the virus. Eight people have now died in Vietnam and two in Thailand.
The most deadly strains of the virus, which affects poultry and can be passed on to humans through close contact, are H5N1 and H9N2, subtypes of the influenza A virus. While avian flu cannot at present be transmitted from human to human, health experts are worried that if it has enough contact with human beings, it could mutate and latch itself on to the human influenza virus, causing a pandemic against which we have no protection, being passed from person to person via air.
To prevent such a scenario, the UNO is calling for the international community to make contributions so that the scientific experts can head off the possibility of a human pandemic in the space of time available. WHO Director-General Lee Jong-Wook, who fought against the SARS epidemic in 2002, declared that "we confront another threat to human health and we must reaffirm existing collaboration and form new ones". The WHO has declared that there is a risk that avian flu will evolve "into an efficient and dangerous human pathogen".
The symptoms of avian flu are a fever, sore throat and a cough and the
patient deteriorates rapidly after infection. The very young and very old
are usually the worst affected, although the latest two victims were aged 23