June 21, 2024


Bird flu spread signals lack of pandemic preparedness, report warns


A report highlighted the surge in bird flu cases among mammals, including cattle, as a stark warning that the world is unprepared for future pandemics, urging immediate action from global leaders, AFP reported.


More than four years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, the report criticised politicians for "gambling through neglect" by not investing sufficient resources to prevent a similar disaster.


The H5N1 bird flu virus has increasingly been found in mammals, including cattle on farms in the US and even a few humans, raising fears of a potential future pandemic.


"If H5N1 began to spread from person to person, the world would likely again be overwhelmed," said Helen Clark, the report's co-author and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, during a news conference. She warned that it could be more disastrous, potentially, than COVID-19.


The report was led by Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who both served as co-chairs of an independent panel advising the World Health Organisation (WHO) on pandemic preparedness. Despite their 2021 recommendations, Clark noted that current funding falls far short of needs and criticised high-income countries for clinging to charity-based approaches to equity.


The report also pointed out that WHO members have not finalised a much-discussed pandemic agreement, hindered by disagreements between affluent nations and those feeling abandoned during the Covid-19 crisis. It urged governments and international organizations to agree on a new pandemic accord by December, increase efforts to boost vaccine production, strengthen the WHO's authority, and enhance national capacities to combat viruses.


To underscore the urgency, the report cited modelling research indicating a one-in-two chance of another pandemic on the scale of COVID-19 occurring within the next 25 years.


-      AFP

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