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KAZAKHSTAN - Pandemic Preparedness

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  • KAZAKHSTAN - Pandemic Preparedness

    Senior officials discuss avian flu priorities for Central Asia

    Two-day Conference on Avian Influenza Control and Human Influenza Pandemic Preparedness and Response ended today in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

    Senior government officials from human and animal health, preparedness, and contingency planning sectors from all Central Asian countries, as well as Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, People's Republic of China, Mongolia, and Russian Federation, along with experts from development agencies have gathered in Almaty for a conference to discuss global strategies to improve country and regional preparedness to reduce the impact of avian influenza and potential flu pandemic in this region.

    The two-day Central Asia Regional Conference on Avian Influenza Control and Human Influenza Pandemic Preparedness and Response has presented an opportunity for the region's policy makers to enhance cooperation and to review pandemic preparedness planning, sector-specific guidance, and multi-sectoral coordination to strengthen the capability of animal and human health experts to respond to avian influenza.

    Experts from the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, UNDP, and others outlined the influenza epidemiological situation and recommended strategies for public health surveillance and control of avian influenza in animals as well as in humans.

    The conference also presented findings from a Global Data Gathering Exercise that assessed in May 2006 planning and preparedness for the disease at national, regional, and global levels.From 2003 to the end of 2005, fifteen countries reported outbreaks of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus H5N1, mainly in the South-East Asia.

    The virus has since spread from Asia to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, affecting more than 45 countries ? in some cases confined to wild fowl, but in several it has been identified in domestic and commercial poultry. While the greatest current threat of avian flu is to the agricultural sector, children and families are impacted in a variety of ways.

    Outbreaks of avian flu among domestic birds mean that families lose an important source of food and income. Children account for nearly half (45 percent) of reported human cases of avian influenza, according to data from countries that have confirmed human cases. David Nabarro, United Nations Systems Influenza Coordinator, said that preventing the spread of avian flu requires making sure that families at risk have both information and economic support.

    "Preventing pandemic and mitigating current economic losses requires collaboration and commitment from everyone ? international organizations, governments, the private sector, the media and local communities," Nabarro said. "Families at risk have the right to expect no less of us."

    Half of the 10 Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) countries have detected the virus (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, People's Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russian Federation). During the most recent CAREC-meeting held in Urumqi, China, on 10-11 April, the member countries recognized the urgency to strengthen regional collaboration, as well as involve all responsible government agencies and international organizations to stem the social and economic impact of avian influenza outbreaks, and the potential public disruption due to an influenza pandemic. Thus, this Regional Conference has presented an opportunity to boost not only cooperation across national borders, but also agree on priority actions and key indicators to be used to monitor their progress in tackling the spread of avian influenza and preparing to prevent and/or respond to the potential flu pandemic in the region of Central Asia and its neighbouring countries.

    Most of the on Avian Influenza Control and Human Influenza Pandemic Preparedness and Response countries in the region have already been stepping up their campaigns to contain the spread of HPAI virus. However, capacity in Central Asia to detect outbreaks of HPAI early remains limited, a concern because the region is the crossing point of four major flyways of migratory birds that can easily carry the HPAI virus from one region to another.

    The Central Asia Regional Conference on Avian Influenza Control and Human Influenza Pandemic Preparedness and Response builds upon the thematic global meetings held in Geneva in November 2005, Beijing in January 2006, and Vienna earlier last week. The conference was co-sponsored by ADB, CAREC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention and US Agency for International Development (USAID), OIE, the European Commission, United Nations System agencies (FAO, UNDP, UNICEF, UNSIC, WHO), and the World Bank.