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H5N1 has spread to 30 new countries: UN

The H5N1 bird flu virus has spread at lightning speed since January, infecting birds in 30 new countries.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 10:53 IST

The H5N1 bird flu virus has spread at lightning speed since January, infecting birds in 30 new countries, the UN's bird flu point man said on Tuesday.

"During the last three months globally, there has been an enormous and rapid spread of H5N1," Dr David Nabarro, the UN's chief coordinator for avian influenza, told reporters in Beijing. "This is really a serious global situation."

Thirty new countries and territories in Africa, Europe, the Indian subcontinent and the Middleeast have reported infections in birds this year, he said. That rapid acceleration compares with the previous two and half years, when only 15 countries -- mostly in Asia -- reported the deadly strain of bird flu.

China was Nabarro's first stop on a regional tour that includes Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia -- the world's hardest-hit countries where the H5N1 virus is considered endemic in poultry stocks.

In Beijing, he met with Vice Premier Hui Liangyu, who heads the country's bird flu command centre, along with officials from the ministries of health and agriculture. Nabarro said China has pledged full cooperation and transparency in working with the international community to help control the spread of the disease.

Nabarro added that some of the $1.9 billion pledged by the international community in January for bird flu and pandemic preparedness has started reaching countries hit hard by the virus.

First Published: Apr 05, 2006 00:08 IST