Source AP ©

International donors to pay 406 million to combat bird flu

International donors are willing to pay US$406 million (EUR 277 million) not to let bird flu turn into human pandemic disease.

On the last day of an international bird flu conference Thursday in New Delhi , the United States led the way, pledging US$195 million (EUR 133 million).

"As the largest single country donor, the United States is engaged, at the highest levels, in efforts to prevent the spread of avian influenza in poultry and avert the possibility of a human pandemic," said Ambassador John E. Lange, the U.S. special representative on bird flu.

The H5N1 virus has afflicted more than 60 countries, forcing the slaughter of hundreds of millions of birds since it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003.

It is now entrenched in several countries, including Indonesia , Egypt and Nigeria , and has killed at least 206 people worldwide.

The virus remains hard for people to catch, but experts fear it will mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans, potentially sparking a pandemic. So far, most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds.

"We are facing a deadly virus and the world must confront it united, the alternative could be catastrophic," Lange said.

Japan was the second largest donor, pledging US$69 million (EUR 47 million).

The pledges follow US$475 million (EUR 325 million) given last year.

Delegates from more than 100 countries gathered in New Delhi for the summit aimed at drawing up a sustainable plan to fight the threat of bird flu.