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Dpr of Korea requests UN aid in fighting bird flu among chickens

New York, 11 AprilĀ 2005
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has formally appealed for United Nations and other international help in its fight against bird flu among chickens, including diagnostic tools and technical aid for control strategies and vaccination, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The appeal was made public at an international conference on bird flu last week in Paris, jointly organized by FAO and the World Animal Health Organization (OIE), a 167-member inter-governmental organization, in collaboration with the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

OIE and FAO welcomed the DPRK's request as a sign of improved transparency and international cooperation. Both organizations said that they are ready to extend their technical support to ensure an effective control of the disease in the country, which so far has not been reported to have claimed any human victims.

FAO experts are already on the ground supporting the Government in obtaining data on the extent of the outbreaks and designing control strategies. OIE has been asked to assist in the training of veterinary experts.

Last week's meeting brought together some 300 key veterinary experts and scientists to discuss the current scientific information on the virus, which has spread to humans in other Asian countries, and to address different aspects of disease surveillance and control strategies.

As of last week 33 human cases of H5N1 virus, 15 of them fatal, had been reported since mid-December in Viet Nam in the latest outbreak of a disease that in a worst-case scenario could kill tens of millions people worldwide.

The conference appealed to donor countries to provide more funds, with some $100 million being urgently needed. So far only Germany, Japan and the Netherlands have expressed a willingness to financially support affected Asian countries.

Overall there have been more than 80 reported infections, nearly 50 of them fatal, since the first human case was linked to widespread poultry outbreaks in Viet Nam and Thailand in January last year.

WHO has repeatedly warned that H5N1 could mutate into a new human virus with pandemic potential. The so-called Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920, unrelated to the present virus, is estimated to have killed between 20 million and 40 million people worldwide.

Nearly 140 million domestic birds have died or been culled over the past year in an effort to curb the spread of the disease. WHO is concerned that continuing transmission to humans might give avian and human influenza viruses an opportunity to exchange genes, facilitating a pandemic.
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