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Homeland Security

10 November 2005

Bird Flu Threat Addressed in Summit of the Americas' Declaration

United States to participate in Brazilian conference on avian influenza

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The leaders of the Western Hemisphere have cited the need to prepare for a possible global outbreak of bird flu, declaring at the recent Summit of the Americas in Argentina that they need to strengthen cooperation and exchanges of information to prevent the disease from spreading into the region.

In their final declaration, released at the November 4-5 summit, the leaders of the hemisphere cited the need to "fight against chronic diseases as well as emerging and re-emerging diseases such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, malaria, tuberculosis, avian influenza, and other health risks."  The  declaration (PDF, 15 pages) is available in Spanish on the OAS Web site.

In a November 7 statement, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said that during the summit, the leaders of the United States and Canada requested from PAHO its "active participation and coordination" on combating a possible outbreak of the disease. For additional information, see Summit of the Americas.

President Bush announced the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza in September, and 88 nations plus major international organizations now have joined in a combined effort to coordinate actions and mobilize resources in the global effort to prevent pandemic influenza.  A fact sheet on the partnership is available on the State Department Web site.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an almost 400-page plan November 2, on the subject of how governments and the public can prepare for and respond to the onset of pandemic influenza. The plan is available on the Health and Human Services Web site.

An avian influenza virus has been killing domestic poultry and wild birds in Asia for nearly two years.  At least 150 million birds have died or been destroyed to stop the deadly H5N1 viral strain.  About 120 people also have become ill with the virus after contact with ailing poultry, and 62 have died.  Health experts warn that the virus could mutate to become easily transmissible between people, setting off a global pandemic.

The final declaration at the Argentina summit also proposed developing strategies within the framework of the World Health Organization and PAHO to devise national plans to prevent possible pandemics, such as an outbreak of bird flu.

The declaration called for an expansion of "cooperation mechanisms that facilitate the access to pertinent measures of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the population at risk" to avian influenza and other diseases.

During the summit, PAHO Director Mirta Roses reported on the launching of a regional plan in the Americas for combating avian influenza, and on progress in the preparation of national plans.  Officials also discussed an influenza contingency plan and its costs, the potential economic impact of bird flu and how to pay for programs to combat the disease.

In a separate action, officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Health Inspection Service will participate in a November 30-December 2 Western Hemisphere conference in Brasilia, Brazil, on the "Surveillance and Prevention of Avian Influenza."  The conference, being organized by -- among others -- the United Nations, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and the government of Brazil, will review and analyze global and hemispheric knowledge of avian influenza and the risk to humans of a pandemic.

More information (PDF, 8 pages) on the conference is available at the PAHO Web site.

For additional information on the disease and efforts to combat it, see Bird Flu (Avian Influenza).

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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