International health experts are warning the bird flu is still spreading, and
continues to poses a threat to humans. So far, it has killed more than twenty
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization opened three-days of
emergency talks in Bangkok on Thursday on how best to contain Asia's bird flu
epidemic, which has so far affected eleven countries.
FAO spokesman, Diderik de Vleeschauwer says the disease is far from being
contained in poultry. "The outbreaks are definitely not over," he says. "So
this is very critically important, we hope that here the basis will be laid
for short term further strategies for fighting for the disease."
About 100 million birds have already died or been slaughtered in the battle
against the disease, which has also infected 32 people and killed more than
20. So far, most of the human cases have been traced back to chickens. But
scientists fear bird flu may still have the potential to change into a strain
that can be passed from human to human - causing a global pandemic in people.
A World Health Organization official attending Thursday's conference said
a new prototype bird flu vaccine for humans could soon begin clinical trials.
Animal health experts remain divided on how to contain the outbreak in poultry.
Mass culling was carried out in many affected areas, causing great financial
losses for many poultry farms. Experts attending a FAO conference in Rome a
month ago recommended that farms with healthy chickens vaccinate their livestock
against all bird flu strains.
Mr. de Vleeschauwer says the conference in Bangkok will be taking a critical
look at vaccinations. "And now the meeting will be asking from the different
countries what difficulties did you encounter in applying vaccination," he
The bird flu first crossed into humans in 1997 in Hong Kong - then killing
six of the 18 people it infected. But this year the territory, which is part
of China but autonomous from the mainland, has avoided a recurrence.
Hong Kong has strict hygiene and rules on importing chickens. Several weeks
ago the government banned live chicken imports from mainland China when outbreaks
were discovered across the country.
Poultry retailers and distributors went on strike Thursday to protest the
government ban, saying it was damaging consumer confidence and crippling their