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May 31, 2006

Bird flu experts to hold information session in Bze. City

Story PictureOn Thursday night, health officials and members of the business community will gather in Belize City for an update of the spread of bird flu. According to the experts, the virus has already caused millions of dollars in financial losses but more disturbingly, there is also evidence that avian influenza can spread to humans who are in close contact with infected birds. This week, Dr. Carissa Etienne, regional coordinator of the Pan American Health Organization’s Influenza Pandemic Preparedness, stressed the importance of everyone being informed about bird flu.

Dr. Carissa Etienne, Asst. Director, PAHO Headquarters
?We are quite concerned about the ability of the virus to mutate and to become a strain that is easily transmitted from human to human, thus packing off a pandemic, then it will be pandemic influenza. We are worried because we are approaching the longest inter-pandemic period, which is thirty-nine years, and it?s almost like the time is right for a pandemic. We do not know if the present strain of the virus which is causing Avian influenza which is the highly pathogenic, H5N1, if that will be the cause of the next pandemic. We do not know when the next pandemic will occur but we do know that there will be a pandemic.?

?All governments need to work with all of their sectors as well as civil society and the private sector to ensure that we have some level of preparedness for pandemic influenza. While we don?t want to cause any panic, and we think that householders need to be informed, we feel that the general public needs to be informed and so we think that communication is also very important.?

Dr. Etienne’s presentation on the state of preparedness of the region to respond to bird flu is scheduled to take place on Thursday night, at seven at the Radisson Hotel.

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