International group renews push to fight avian, pandemic flu

Apr 22, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – An international avian and pandemic flu meeting in Hanoi concluded yesterday, with health ministers and top officials from more than 70 countries agreeing on a set of strategies for responding to future disease threats.

The agreement, titled the Hanoi Declaration, includes national measures to identify new diseases that cross from animals to humans and quickly deploy public health responses, the United Nations (UN) said yesterday in a press release. Documents related to the meeting are available on the Web site of the Seventh International Ministerial Conference on Animal and Pandemic Influenza, where the Hanoi Declaration will be posted shortly, according to the group.

The ministerial conference was hosted by the Vietnamese government and organized by the United States, the European Union, UN groups, and other global health organizations. It was the latest in a series of high-level meetings over the past 4 years to tackle international avian and pandemic flu issues.

Clouds of volcanic ash hampered travel to the 3-day meeting over Europe, which blocked about a fifth of the delegates from attending the meeting, the UN said. China's earthquake limited that country's participation. "The severity of these natural occurrences, and the suddenness with which they struck, reminded delegates about the swift and unpredictable spread of new hazards that can emerge from the animal world," the UN release said.

The meeting also took place in the wake of warnings from several global organizations about the continued risk of H5N1 avian influenza. Countries where the disease is endemic, such as Egypt and Vietnam, have reported several outbreaks in poultry this year, along with a spate of human cases.

A few weeks in advance of the meeting, organizers released a draft report on how to sustain momentum in the fight against animal and pandemic flu. The report was slated to be finalized when the group met in Hanoi. Some of the topics include broad-based prevention and control, incentives, measuring progress, and building financial and technical assistance.

The health officials rejected an effort put forth by Poland to include in the declaration a statement on pharmaceutical company conflict of interest and their responsibility for vaccine side effects, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reported yesterday. The Polish government did not purchase a stockpile of pandemic vaccine, in part because it objected to liability limits on companies' pandemic vaccines.

David Nabarro, the UN's system influenza coordinator, said in the press release that the global capacity to collaborate in response to disease threats has improved over the past 5 years, but the conference helped identify areas that can enhance the world's security during future emerging disease threats.

At the closing ceremony yesterday, Bui Ba Bong, Vietnam's vice-minister of agriculture and rural development, said the world needs to continue responding to H5N1 and pandemic H1N1 while preparing for other diseases that move from animals to humans. "In Vietnam's experience, this calls for good human and animal health services, excellent communications, and whole of society responses," he said.

See also:

Apr 21 UN press release

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