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'More efforts needed to fight flu pandemic'

World-wide efforts have helped to stem the spread of deadly avian flu across the globe but the threat of another flu pandemic breaking out killing millions of people remains.

world Updated: Oct 22, 2008 13:32 IST

World-wide efforts have helped to stem the spread of deadly avian flu across the globe but the threat of another flu pandemic breaking out killing millions of people remains, a joint new United Nations and World Bank report warns.

Most countries have put in place strategies to deal with a possible outbreak but the plans have not been properly tested, leaving them extremely vulnerable if a major pandemic were to occur, report stresses.

The World Bank estimates that a severe pandemic could kill more than 70 million people.

Launching the report on Tuesday, David Nabarro, UN System Influenza Coordinator, told mediapersons that the lack of preparations remain a real concern given a recent World Bank study indicated that the economic cost of a global pandemic could surpass US$ 3 trillion.

"When planning for an extraordinary concern like an influenza pandemic, it's not enough just to have written a plan and have everybody signing off on it," he said. "You also have to check it, test it and make sure that it works, and then revise on the basis of assimilation."

The report notes that 148 countries provided data about their plans and strategies for a potential pandemic.

Yet only 53 per cent of those nations had tested their plans in the past year, and just one quarter had done so at all levels of their government. Less than 40 per cent had incorporated lessons learnt from the tests, the report emphasises.

Dr Nabarro said the threat of a pandemic remained the same as it was three or four years ago, adding that a major influenza outbreak did not necessarily have to come from a strain of "bird flu" such as the H5N1 virus that has afflicted some countries in recent years.