Committed to PEOPLE'S RIGHT TO KNOW
Vol. 5 Num 646 Thu. March 23, 2006  
   
Front Page


Bird flu poses threat to Bangladesh
Fears UN


The United Nations has expressed fears that bird flu (Avian Influenza) poses an imminent threat to Bangladesh in the wake of spread of the disease in India and Myanmar.

Bangladesh should urgently approve and implement the 'National Preparedness and Response Plan for Avian Influenza and Human Pandemic Influenza', developed with technical assistance from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), to effectively and efficiently respond to the impending crisis, it said.

A Unicef press release quoted UN Resident Coordinator ad interim to Bangladesh, Louis-Georges Arsenault, as saying, "Now that we have an outbreak of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1) in the western state of Maharashtra in India and also in Myanmar, there is heightened concern among development partners and government officials within Bangladesh regarding a potential and imminent threat of Bird Flu, which could have the most devastating consequences."

The UN agencies in Bangladesh are taking the imminent threat of Avian Influenza (AI) very seriously as the AI virus (H5N1) has been confirmed in two neighbouring countries -- India and Myanmar, it mentioned.

The resident coordinator of the UN noted that Bangladesh lies on major routes of migratory birds, which are vulnerable to the spread of this disease. "Furthermore, the poor bio-security situation in the dominant small-scale and back yard poultry farms along with the country's dense population and close living quarters increase potential for virus transmission, he said.

The UN agencies think there is a pressing need to educate the people of Bangladesh to ensure that they take personal protective measures when dealing with poultry and other birds. They also need to be alert about signs of dead or sick animals in their surroundings for rapid containment of poultry outbreaks.

"Avian influenza or Bird Flu is a contagious disease of animals caused by viruses that normally infect only birds, and less commonly, pigs. Avian Influenza has not yet been detected or reported in either birds or humans in Bangladesh but the country is considered at risk because of its close proximity to several H5N1 infected countries", said Arsenault.

As of March 20, a total of 177 confirmed human cases of AI (H5N1) and 98 deaths were reported to WHO, having 55.4 percent Case Fatality Rate globally, the press release added.

Experts at WHO said the recent AI outbreaks in many countries in Europe have highlighted the fact that no country can be safe from it, and therefore none can afford to be complacent. Every country will have to strengthen its surveillance and public health measures. While a pandemic cannot be predicted or prevented, countries can prepare to respond more effectively and to minimise the impact ono human health.

At an emergency meeting recently, the UN agencies, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and International Monetary Fund pledged to assist Bangladesh Government in implementing its national preparedness and response plan. The UN team plans to provide all support to the government in raising public awareness at all levels. The Japanese government will support the UN effort on risk communication through the Unicef.