‘Bird flu not direct threat to public health’

February 24, 2010

Bird flu is not a substantial direct threat to public health all over the world, a Western public health expert said in the city yesterday, insisting that pandemic influenza like swine flu could be fatal however for humankind.
Dr Eric Starbuck, a US influenza expert, said the world has to remain alert against influenza with an ‘expectation of most unexpected things’ as well as prepare plans and actions based on the current available evidence.
“Awareness and precautions in advance are the key factors to face influenza challenges,” he said while making a presentation on ‘global epidemiology of pandemic flu: past and present’ at a workshop at Sonargaon Hotel.
Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness Project (H2P), Save the Children USA and Care jointly organised the two-day workshop on pandemic influenza for the potential managers of different organisations, including NGOs, to prepare them better for future planning.
Eric explained epidemiological aspects of global influenza pandemic of 1918, 1957, 1968 and novel A H1N1 swine flu of 2009.  He said the first and severe most influenza of 1918 had claimed the highest number of lives around the world and majority of the deaths occurred among people aged over 65 years.
On a contract of last year’s swine flu, also caused by H1N1 virus, the death toll from the pandemic was much lower and it killed 14,000 lives all over the world against 40-100 million in 1918. The mortality was among the age group of 30-59, opposite the first pandemic influenza of last century.
Eric said ironically the messages that were given in 1918 and subsequent influenza for public awareness were almost identical to last year’s messages-stop spitting in public places, avoid direct contacts with infected persons and stay at home during the waves of the flu.
In this context, he suggested community mitigation-an approach that helps to prevent the disease at the community levels effectively.
Director general of Directorate of Health Services (DGHS) Prof Dr Shah Monir Hossain, who attended as the chief guest, said Bangladesh has successfully contained both H5N1 (avian flu) and H1N1 (swine flu) at short intervals.He said the mitigation experience in bird flu, which emerged in early 2007, has helped to tackle swine flu that killed a couple of lives but infected many.
 
Courtesy of BSS via The Independent

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