Russian expert warns of 'bird flu pandemic'
28/03/2008 12:24
NUSA DUA (Indonesia), March 28 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian scientist said during an international bird flu conference that the virus would cause a global pandemic resulting in thousands of deaths, but did not say when it would happen.

Speaking at the 6th International Bird Flu Summit in Bali, the deputy director of the Russian Health Ministry's Institute of Epidemiology, Viktor Maleyev said: "The world has not seen pandemics for many years, although flu causes them from time to time."

"Diseases know no borders and when they are transmitted by birds, it is twice as true," Maleyev said.

Although no cases of human-to-human transmission of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu have been reported, scientists fear the virus could mutate into a strain that could pass easily between people, causing a global pandemic.

"Bird flu is a global problem, and it is also a problem for Russia which is not isolated from the rest of the world," the scientist said.

No human fatalities or cases of humans infected with the virus have been reported in Russia, where the first outbreaks were registered in southern areas of the country and Siberia in 2005. The latest outbreak occurred near Moscow in February, resulting in the culling of thousands of poultry.

"Every incident raises tension, as there is still a lot we do not know. We are only aware of 1% of all the micro organisms that are in our environment, and 99% of them we know nothing about," the health expert said.

"Each year 25 million severe respiratory infections are recorded in Russia," Maleyev said, "We know the cause of a mere 10% of these incidents," adding that it was not clear what caused the remaining 90% and how many people failed to seek medical treatment.

"Often when an infection fades away, people think that it is down to the health service, but they [infections] often appear and disappear regardless of what we do," he noted.

Maleyev said, however, there was a lot that could be done to fight the virus and avoid widespread panic, including public health awareness campaigns, training for medical staff, drawing up a vaccination action plan and rapid testing for the disease.

Igor Krasilnikov, a senior R&D specialist at the Moscow-based Mikrogen company told the summit on Thursday that Russia was ready to cooperate with Southeast Asia in producing bird flu vaccines.

According to the World Health Organization, avian influenza has so far killed 230 people out of 364 confirmed cases worldwide.

Original article: RIA Novosti
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