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Originally published December 6 2006

In a single year, bird flu caused $5.4 billion in economic losses to global economy

by Jerome Douglas

(NaturalNews) The bird flu has already caused $5.4 billion in damage to the global economy, according to new estimates that cite $2 billion in direct costs, and $3.4 billion in indirect costs.

But further global efforts to fight the bird flu will required over the next two to three years according to the World Bank, who was advocating more effective compensation for poultry farmers caught in the front line of the bird flu dilemma.

In November, President Bush announced that he would ask Congress for $7.1 billion in emergency funding to prepare the country for a possible flu pandemic. Bush said that said that there had not been an outbreak in the United States or the rest of the world, but stressed that health officials must be ready.

Bush stated that "A pandemic is a lot like a forest fire if caught early, it might be extinguished with limited damage; if allowed to smolder undetected, it can grow to an inferno that spreads quickly beyond our ability to control it."

The current bird flu strain -- known as the H5N1 virus -- has spread to birds in 16 countries, infected 121 people and killed 62 -- according to the World Health Organization. The H5N1 strain does not spread easily from person to person, but health experts fear that it could mutate.

The Bush administration's plan provides funding for early detection, containment and treatment of an outbreak, but with billions more in funding. The plan also calls for improving the process of creating flu vaccines and stockpiling antiviral drugs.

In addition to a day-by-day assessment of the bird flu on a global scale, the U.S. -- in order to strengthen domestic surveillance -- is launching the National Biosurveillance Initiative "to detect, quantify and respond to outbreaks of disease in humans and animals."

Of the $1.2 billion asked for, Bush said that this amount would buy enough bird flu vaccine for 20 million people. He said the vaccine probably would not be a perfect match for a pandemic flu, but it could help. Bush added, "A vaccine against the current avian flu virus would likely offer some protection against a pandemic strain and possibly save many lives in the first critical months of an outbreak."


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