Last year human and poultry outbreaks of avian influenza did not reach anywhere near the levels seen in 2006 and 2005, but toward the end of the year outbreaks in poultry surged in several regions, according to a recent report.
Data and analysis of worldwide incidences of the H5N1 avian influenza were published in "2007 Year in Review: Avian Influenza and Pandemic Planning" by the health intelligence team at Annapolis, Md.-based iJET Intelligent Risk Solutions.
The report's findings were positive in many ways. Unlike 2006, which saw the unprecedented spread of H5N1 to almost 40 new countries, last year only five countries were added to the list of locations that have been touched by the virus.
However, as 2007 came to a close, authorities grew more concerned as Africa, Egypt and Indonesia struggled to contain outbreaks. During the past year, more than half of the world's human infections and almost 70 percent of all human avian flu deaths were reported from Indonesia. In 2007, Myanmar and Pakistan reported their first human H5N1 infections.
Scientists have made progress toward developing vaccines for protection against influenza. But experts point out that a failure by even one country to contain the spread of the virus could create a domino effect, erasing the progress neighboring countries had achieved over the previous year.
Adding to the global danger is that the effectiveness of antivirals is uncertain and a vaccine might not be able to be produced fast enough during the first wave of a pandemic. In addition, public health officials think "bird-flu fatigue" could cause businesses to disregard the ongoing threat of a pandemic.
"Pandemic monitoring and planning is essential and continues to be a major business consideration for multinational organizations," said Joan Pfinsgraff, director of health intelligence for iJET. "It is not only necessary, but imperative for organizations to understand the significant impact that a pandemic could have on their companies."
The annual report summarizes global pandemic response and preparedness, providing organizations with a reference for developing and continuing effective pandemic planning. Its authors commend the more than 80 percent of countries that were developing national plans for avian and pandemic influenza in 2007, but insist that more effort is needed.
The report's authors noted that experts around the world agree that global eradication of the H5N1 virus remains an unlikely prospect. Although H5N1 has remained the focus of pandemic planning, the researchers point out that exposure to other influenza viruses, including the H9, H7 and H2 human-based viruses, could grow into a global outbreak. They call on public planners to more adequately address vulnerabilities in critical service sectors outside healthcare, and corporate executives to pay closer attention to their supply chains. the report is based on data from iJET's World Pandemic Monitor, which provides real-time alerting and authoratative analysis for businesses.
More information can be found at http://www.ijet.com/2007avianflu.
April 1, 2008
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