The World Health Organisation has said it is “on high alert” to the spread of avian influenza and its possible shift towards a human flu pandemic. It has called on all countries to monitor closely outbreaks of avian influenza in birds and poultry and to report promptly any human cases.
Different strains of bird flu have been spreading across Europe and Asia since late last year, leading to large-scale slaughtering of poultry.
Nearly 40 countries have reported new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry or wild birds since November, according to the WHO.
“The rapidly expanding geographical distribution of these outbreaks and the number of virus strains currently co-circulating have put WHO on high alert,” Margaret Chan told the start of the U.N. agency’s 10-day executive board.
In China, there has been a “sudden and steep increase” in human cases of H7N9 since December and the WHO has not been able to rule out limited human-to-human spread in two clusters of human cases although no sustained spread has been detected thus far, she said.
Under the International Health Regulations, a binding legal instrument, WHO’s 194 member states are required to detect and report human cases promptly, Chan said, adding: “We cannot afford to miss the early signals.”