Vietnam confirms new bird flu case
Asia's deadly bird flu has infected a 21-year-old Vietnamese man and possibly his younger sister, officials said on Friday, as experts wrapped up an international conference on fighting the resilient virus.
His 14-year-old sister was being tested for the virus after she fell ill with a severe fever, Dr Pham Van Diu told Reuters.
Bird flu experts meeting in Ho Chi Minh City say the virus, which has killed 46 people in Asia since it erupted at the end of 2003, is now endemic in parts of the region despite the slaughter of 140 million birds.
They no longer talk about eradicating the disease, but of containing it before it mutates into a form which can pass between humans and sets off a pandemic that could kill millions.
Vietnam, battling fresh outbreaks in 35 of its 64 provinces this year, has appealed for technical and financial help at the U.N.-sponsored meeting of scientists, animal health officials and donor governments and agencies.
They gave only $18 million last year, far below the $100 million needed to detect and react quickly to outbreaks.
Up to $300 million is now needed to boost surveillance systems, equip labs and vaccinate birds in six contaminated countries and to aid monitoring in four to five countries at risk, said FAO animal health chief Joseph Domenech.
"That does not include subsidies, compensation and incentives for a long-term restructuring of the industry. Those funds are several hundreds of millions of dollars," he told Reuters.
He said it was up to affected countries to draw up specific aid requests after the meeting, where donors such as the United States, Britain, Australia and Japan were to speak on Friday.
A key issue debated at the meeting was how to overhaul Asia's open-air farms, where millions of families live alongside their poultry, fuelling the spread of the disease.
The WHO wants recommendations that farmers stop raising animals together and keep birds in pens so they can't mix with wild birds or ducks believed to be natural carriers of the virus.
But implementing biosecurity measures -- everything from building closed chicken sheds and erecting bird netting to chemical baths and vaccines -- is hugely expensive in poor countries such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia.
But the FAO is adamant that no matter how big the task ahead, money must be found and age-old farming practices reformed.
"If we want to control avian influenza there may be people who lose their livelihoods," said Domenech, but that may be offset by growth in other sectors if bird flu is brought to heel.