Monday, July 21, 2008

World warned over killer flu pandemic

World warned over killer flu pandemic - Health News, Health & Wellbeing - The Independent: "The world is failing to guard against the inevitable spread of a devastating flu pandemic which could kill 50 million people and wreak massive disruption around the globe, the Government has warned.

In evidence to a House of Lords committee, ministers said that early warning systems for spotting emerging diseases were "poorly co-ordinated" and lacked "vision" and "clarity". They said that more needed to be done to improve detection and surveillance for potential pandemics and called for urgent improvement in rapid-response strategies.

The Government's evidence appeared in a highly critical report from the Lords Intergovernmental Organisations Committee, which attacked the World Health Organisation (WHO) as "dysfunctional" and criticised the international response to the threat of an outbreak of disease which could sweep across the globe.

The Government said: "While there has not been a pandemic since 1968, another one is inevitable." Ministers said it would could kill between two and 50 million people worldwide and that such an outbreak would leave up to 75,000 people dead in Britain and cause "massive" disruption.

Peers joined ministers calling for urgent action to build up early warning systems across the Third World that can identify and neutralise outbreaks of potentially deadly new strains of disease before they are swept across the globe by modern trade and travel. Peers also called for new action to monitor animal diseases, warning of the potentially disastrous effects of conditions such as the H5N1 bird flu virus jumping to humans and demanded that Britain step up funding for the WHO to tackle the threat.

With international tourist journeys now reaching 800 million a year, giving unprecedented potential for epidemics to spread across borders, and many cities rapidly growing in developing countries, which would provide "fertile ground" to spread disease, peers on the committee warned that conditions such as Sars, avian influenza and ebola "have the potential to cause rapid and devastating sickness and death across much of the world if they are not detected and checked in time". "

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