National and regional leadership needed to coordinate response to avian flu pandemic

10/12/05

EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday October 14, 2005. In North America the embargo lifts at 6:30pm ET Wednesday October 13, 2005.

Strong national and regional leadership in all countries is urgently needed to coordinate a response to the looming avian influenza pandemic, states an editorial in this week's issue of The Lancet.

A draft of the US preparedness report was leaked to The New York Times last week. One of its major shortcomings is that it does not say who is in charge of coordinating a response to an avian influenza pandemic.

The Lancet comments: "The pandemic of 1918–19 affected 20% of the world's population and killed 20–50 million worldwide… Last month, the UN appointed David Nabarro, a senior public-health expert at WHO, to lead the coordination of the UN response to avian influenza. What is also urgently needed is strong national and regional leadership; unrestricted transparency in surveillance and preparedness plans from all countries, including China; and renewed research efforts to find the best methods of prevention and treatment. Without these measures, what is already looking like an inevitable influenza pandemic may be as deadly as that which struck in 1918."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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