International Bird Flu Summit Closes with Promise of Aggressive Campaign

March 19, 2007

In the two days of the 4th International Bird Flu Summit in Washington, D.C. last week, public health officials, business leaders, policy makers, and scientists addressed the fight against bird flu.

By the close of the summit on March 14, participants had agreed to come up with a more aggressive campaign for bird flu readiness reinforced by strong alliances among all sectors involved.

Dr. David Nabarro, UN system senior coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, emphasized the importance of creating this strong alliance when he encouraged global solidarity in his presentation.

While he praised the existing efforts of those involved in the fight against the deadly strain, he reminded everyone that “the glass is still half empty in terms of international efforts,” and that addressing the needs of bird-flu hit countries, most of which are developing nations, must be among the priorities of the campaign.

A guide to monitoring and evaluating bird flu programs in Southeast Asia, a MEASURE project discussed in the summit by Macro International Director Denise Johnson, will prove central to the campaign since a lot of the countries hit with the deadly H5N1 strain are in this Asian region, accroding to experts at the gathering.

Just as in previous conferences, this year’s summit featured bird flu situation updates on countries that suffered blows from the bird flu crisis. Dr. Sardikin Giriputro, chief of Indonesia’s Sulianto Saroso Hospital AI Outbreak Response Team, led the country reports, followed by Dr. Huseyin Avni Sahin of Turkey and Dr. Abdulsalami Nasidi of Nigeria.

The public health sector also plays a crucial role in this renewed fight, attendees said. Rapid emergency and health system response and management were discussed in the conference, supplemented by presentations on vaccination and anti-viral delivery and studies. Hoffman-La Roche medical director Dominic Iacuzio and Nanoviricides CEO Eugene Seymour broached findings on the use of antivirals as principal defense against bird flu infections.

The summit also weighed the role of the business sector, with business continuity in the face of a pandemic addressed by Global Business Continuity Management Director Tom Serio.

A macro look at society also gave the participants the opportunity to discuss animal health and the socio-economic implications of bird flu. Ohio State Veterinarian Tony Forshey and USDA Director for Preparedness and Incident Coordination Jonathan Zack were among the experts who raised these concerns in the conference.

In a talk on pandemic planning, U.S. Homeland Security Officials Kathie McCracken, Public Health Specialist, and Dr. Tilman Jolly, associate chief for Medical Readiness, proposed fresh approaches and gave new perspectives on the pressing issues on bird flu.

Dr. Robin A. Robinson, acting associate director for the Pandemic Influenza Program of the Human Health Services Department, lent his expertise to this round of talks with his presentation on the U.S.’s medical countermeasure program.

Other topics that were covered were improved risk communication and management, community strategies, and bird flu detection schemes.

“We have covered a broad range of topics in the summit; it has given us to help us mount a more aggressive campaign against bird flu,” said Conference Chair Samir Farajallah. “Although there still is a lot to be done, our global partners are committed to this fight.”


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