WHO warns bird flu could kill 7 million

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning regarding the deadly bird flu virus currently circulating.

WHO says a global bird flu pandemic could infect at least one billion people and cause the death of between two and seven million, all in a matter of weeks.

Jean-Marc Olive, the WHO representative in Manila, says the prediction is based on models derived from previous flu epidemics.

Olive was speaking at a forum held in Makati City organised by the Australian embassy.

He also said that even a modest pandemic lasting over one year might cause losses as high as three percent of Asia's gross domestic product and 0.5 percent of world's gross domestic product.

According to WHO figures since 2003, a total of 172 people have died from the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, mainly in Southeast Asia.

Almost all those infections have been as a direct result of contact with infected birds.

However the ever present fear is that the virus could mutate and allow human-to-human transfer and WHO says the threat posed by bird flu cannot be predicted.

Olive says that the mass culling of poultry must be accepted in order to prevent a human pandemic and governments should boost their capability to prevent the spread of the disease, strengthen surveillance and prepare for any outbreak.

A recent exercise simulating an outbreak of bird flu in Cambodia demonstrated that the world body could deliver a large supply of Tamiflu, a medicine used to treat human cases, to an affected country in two days.

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